Manhattan is becoming a popular training ground for those wanting to compete in the Olympics.
Former K-State athlete Erik Kynard won the silver medal in the men’s high jump at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
This week Roger Allerheiligen, owner of Campus Hair Styling, heads to Cleveland to compete in racquetball at the 2013 National Senior Games. The racquetball event starts Saturday and goes through Wednesday, July 31.
Allerheiligen earned the right to participate by winning the Kansas Senior Olympics in September. He said he competed at the urging of his brother, who frequently competes at the Kansas Senior Olympics in tennis along with his wife.
Allerheiligen said he wanted to see what he can do. “It was a lot of hard work,” he said. “They didn’t just give it to you.”
Allerheiligen started playing racquetball about 35 years ago after he quit playing softball to focus on supporting his daughter, who also played softball.
“I was playing my games and she was going to hers,” he said. “I couldn’t go those first couple of times. I thought, ‘Well this doesn’t work.’”
After a brief detour to handball — “My hands couldn’t take it” — Allerheiligen started playing racquetball. He said he’s self-taught and never took a lesson.
“In fact, I never really practiced before,” he said. “Somebody would call up, and I would go play a game. That’s how I got better.”
This changed earlier this year when Allerheiligen decided to practice by himself after recovering from a bout of pneumonia in February. “It’s amazing what (practice) did for me,” he said.
This shouldn’t be misconstrued as a lack of passion for the sport, an accusation no athlete wants to hear. “I’d almost sooner play a racquetball game than eat, and I like to eat,” Allerheiligen said.
Allerheiligen plays racquetball Mondays and Thursdays and takes a 20-mile bicycle ride Sundays. “I’ve been really intense about doing it recently,” he said.
Allerheiligen said it’s very easy for him to play two to two-and-a-half hours because he enjoys it so much. He said the key to his game is his use of angles. “It’s just a good feeling to hit that ball and get it to go where you want it,” he said.
Now that he’s on his way to compete, Allerheiligen said he’s been amazed by the amount of interest shown by others. His wife, Phyllis, has a list of people who want her to text them after each game.
There will be 34 men competing in his age group, 65-69. “I’m at the high part of it,” he said with a chuckle.
Allerheiligen isn’t sure of the format. “I’ll go up there and get five games for sure,” he said.
What Allerheiligen does know is his wife will be joined by his daughter and two grandchildren will make the trip from Cincinnati to watch him play. “That puts a little pressure,” he said. “I don’t want the grandkids to think, ‘Ooh, Grandpa’s bad!’”