Richard Rucoba soon will turn 92, but he has no plans of slowing down.
The retired Lansing optometrist, World War II veteran and active athlete recently participated in the National Senior Games, also known as the National Senior Olympics, which occur every two years.
The events took place in June in Birmingham, Alabama, with more than 10,000 athletes age 50 or older, separated into five-year categories with 19 medal sports. This year marked 30 years for the National Senior Games. “Doc,” as he is known to friends, has been involved with the Senior Olympics for more than two decades.
“I’ve been competing in the Senior Olympics for 21 years. As a result I have over 200 metals. Most of them are gold, some are silver and I have a few bronze,” Rucoba said. He has participated in the state-level games in Illinois each year since 1995, and until five years ago, he also was participating each year in Indiana’s games. This was his fourth time competing at the national level.
An all-around athlete, Rucoba played three sports — football, basketball and track — in his days at East Chicago’s Washington High School, where he graduated at 17 in 1943. He was inducted in June into the East Chicago Sports Hall of Fame. Following high school, he enlisted in the Marines and served in the Pacific on the Solomon Islands and the Philippines as a medic from 1943 until 1946.
His favorite event remains the 400-meter dash, a race he competed in in high school and that he still runs in today. When he ran the 400-meter dash in the Senior Olympics at age 80, he broke a record for his age category.
For the national games this year, he competed in four events, bringing home one silver and three gold medals. He earned gold in the 100-meter and 400-meter races, as well as racquetball and a silver medal for the 200-meter race.
“It’s exhilarating. It’s a very great feeling,” he said. “Especially when you’re competing with people from all over the country.”
Racquetball has been a sport he’s enjoyed for many years and he continues playing regularly, usually four days a week. He’s the oldest guy in the group now.
“The others that play are all younger than me,” he said. “They’re all in their 70s and 80s.”
He’s also an avid golfer and hits the courses about twice a week.
Rucoba already has registered for the next Illinois Senior Games, taking place in September in Springfield, Illinois, where he will be competing in shot put, discus and javelin, the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races and golf. And he already has marked his calendar for the next National Senior Games to be held in 2019 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I plan to be there if I’m still here,” he said. “With God’s help, I’ll be there.”