West Sound Senior Games return to Bremerton

(Left to right) Jay Williams, 76, Linda Zahnow, 63, and Russ Childers, 77, will compete in the badminton competition during the West Sound Senior Games, which begin Wednesday. - Wesley Remmer/staff photo
(Left to right) Jay Williams, 76, Linda Zahnow, 63, and Russ Childers, 77, will compete in the badminton competition during the West Sound Senior Games, which begin Wednesday.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photo

For one hour each week, Jay Williams, 76, chases birds around a gym and swats them out of the air, one by one.

Slinging a racket, he smacks them as they whizz around the room mid-flight.

It’s great exercise.

“My doctor says I should walk more and I say, ‘I play badminton on Tuesdays. That makes up for the rest of the week,’” Williams said.

Williams is one of 10 players who entered the badminton competition for the seventh annual West Sound Senior Games, running Wednesday through Saturday.

This is the first time badminton has been included in the games, open to competitors 50 years old and above.

That the sport requiring players to swat shuttlecocks over a net with lightweight rackets is on the schedule this year is due to Williams, who plays every Tuesday morning at the Sheridan Park Community Center in Bremerton.

“I opened my big mouth and asked why we didn’t have badminton,” Williams said, referring to a conversation he had with Holly Peterson, who coordinates the games.

Like tennis, badminton is played one-on-one or with teams of two.

The rules are simple: Players must serve cross-court and teams score only when they win rallies while on serve.

When the bird goes into the net, or beyond the out-of-bounds-line, the rally ends. The first team to 15 points wins and teams must win by two points.

Williams hopes more people show up Tuesday mornings to play a sport that requires more exertion than some may think.

Sometimes, Williams modifies the rules to accommodate his opponents’ needs.

There is the “2-foot” rule, meaning if the bird flies more than two feet away from a player, the shot doesn’t count. There also are shortened lines, reducing the amount of running and movement.

Still, after an hour of swatting and bending and reaching, most players walk away with sweaty brows.

“Show up ready to play and leave the talking at home,” Williams joked. “It doesn’t cost anything and you get a little workout.”

“This is what we used to play in the backyard,” added Port Orchard’s Linda Zahnow, 63, who was on the court with Williams for the first time Tuesday in Bremerton. “I’m game for anything. If anybody invites me to play a sport, I’ll play. What the heck?”

Zahnow is a third-time participant in the Senior Games and plans to enter as many contests as her schedule will allow.

She is an avid bowler, walks half-marathons with her daughter and enjoys disc golf.

Peterson, the event coordinator, expects more than 200 athletes to show up for the four-day series of competitions, which will include 15 sports – ping pong, disc golf, a 5K run and walk, swimming, basketball and racquetball, among others.

The cost to compete is $32, covering the entry fee to all events. That money also goes toward a banquet and dinner held Saturday, the final day of competition.

A chili feed kicks off the event from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Bremerton Senior Center, 1140 Nipsic Avenue.

“I can’t wait,” Zahnow said. “It’s the best event around for people like me who want to stay fit.”

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