Sisters compete in 17 events at Senior Games

By Jessica Bernstein-Wax

Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 08/12/2009 10:21:19 PM PDT
Updated: 08/12/2009 10:21:20 PM PDT

Coming to Palo Alto for the 2009 Summer National Senior Games was something of a homecoming for sisters Claudia and Chris Simpson, both of whom were born at Stanford Hospital.

It also was an opportunity for the two women to connect with family members, spread their parents’ ashes — and compete in more than 15 athletic events, some against each other.

This was 56-year-old Claudia Simpson’s third time at the national senior games, and the Baltimore yoga teacher participated in 11 swimming and track and field events, earning second place in her age group in the high jump, third place in the pole vault and sixth place in the 400-meter dash. She also came in eighth in the 50-yard breaststroke.

All that after falling into a storm grate and badly bruising her leg in a car accident on the way to the airport heading to the senior games.

“It just trashed my left leg,” Simpson said Tuesday. “Fortunately, I didn’t have to run for another week.

“I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be alive, and I had a lot of fun,” she added.

Chris Simpson, a 58-year-old Vermont resident, said she was so inspired by her sister’s performance in previous senior games that she installed an Endless Pools stationary swimming machine in her home and began training.

The high school art teacher said she never participated in team sports as a student, and the national senior games were her first real competition. She raced in six swimming events,
Advertisement placing ninth in the 50-yard backstroke and even managing to beat her sister in the 50-yard freestyle with a 15th-place finish.

“I was thrilled I came in the upper middle most of the way, plus everybody was so nice with all the competitors helping to coach,” Chris Simpson said. “It was more a spirit of having fun than winning.”

Good athletic genes might have something to do with that stellar first performance.

The sisters’ parents, Leroy and Helen Simpson, ran the 1500-meter dash together in the Virginia senior games and planned to head to the nationals in 1991. But Helen Simpson’s cancer and subsequent death prevented them from competing.

In 1999 Claudia Simpson was diagnosed with breast cancer, an experience she said made her a more determined athlete.

“Every time I run a hard race or a hard distance it’s like, if I can go through a year of cancer treatments I can finish this race,” she said.

Throughout the week, about 10 relatives, including Claudia’s 17-year-old daughter and a third sister, Carol Simpson Yee, cheered the two women on.

Asked whether Simpson Yee plans to compete with her sister in the next senior games, Chris Simpson laughed.

“She’s claiming she’s going to,” Chris said. “She would love to do volleyball, but she has to get a team together.”

E-mail Jessica Bernstein-Wax at jbernstein@dailynewsgroup.com.

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