The National Senior Games (NSG)—the largest multisport athletic event in the world for seniors—has given athletes over the age of 50 a venue for serious sporting competition since 1987. Held every two years, NSG’s 2022 games will take place in Fort Lauderdale May 10-23. An estimated 13,000 athletes will compete in 22 sports—from archery to volleyball and everything in between—and vie for medals in five-year age divisions from 50 to 100 (and beyond). Below, meet one of the hometown athletes you can cheer on at this year’s games.
Name: Hubie Kerns Jr.
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale
A second-generation stuntman who began working in the film industry at age 7, Kerns is now retired (after working on more than 1,000 commercials, 175 films, and 450 TV episodes). But he hasn’t retired from swimming, and he hopes to bring home some new hardware at this year’s NSG. We caught up with Kerns to hear his take on pursuing competitive sports at any age—and taking on the 2022 games in his hometown.
FLI: Why swimming?
Kerns: My mom taught me to swim at 9 months old. I was in one of those old newsreels you would see in movie theaters. Swimming paid my way through college with a full scholarship. After college, I quit swimming. When I was 53, I started swimming for exercise; that’s when a U.S. Masters coach spotted me and asked me to compete. I told him my competition days were over, but he was persistent and finally convinced me. I placed at the NSG and had so much fun with everyone that I haven’t stopped since.
Tell us about setting goals and overcoming adversity as an athlete.
I decided to give myself a three-year plan: First was to place at nationals, then place in the top three for my second year, and the third year was to win nationals. I accomplished all three! My next goal was to set a world record. My time as a 64-year-old was under the world record for the 65-69 age group. I was two weeks away from competing as a 65-year-old when I was hit by a car and my leg was shattered. Eventually I started working out; it felt so good to get back in the water. I wasn’t able to do breaststroke (the event in which I’d hoped to break the world record), but I could do freestyle. I was on crutches until it was time to go to the starting blocks—and a teammate had to help me up on the blocks. I stood on one foot for the start. At the turn, I could only push off with one leg. Still, I ended up swimming the tenth fastest time in world history. Swimming brought me back from a life tragedy. My injury kept me from doing the breaststroke up to world record level, but I ended up breaking four world records in the individual medley at 70 years old.
What do you say to those who say it’s time to hang it up and retire?
You’re never too old to stay active!
What’s the NSG experience like?
NSG brings people from all parts of the country together. You make friends with the competition. You get to see old friends and socialize outside of the meet. I now have good friends [whom] I stay in contact with all over the country.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s NSG events in Fort Lauderdale?
Seeing friends and trying to kick their butts. Lots of friendly rivalries!