Coach wins Senior Olympic gold medal

January 12, 1994|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

She's been sending athletes, old and young, off to the games for 30 years. But last year, it was her turn to go.

Anne Clemmitt, 56, finally got the chance to prove her own tennis skills last June when she won first place in the Senior Olympic National Consolation Singles Tournament in Baton Rouge, La.

Mrs. Clemmitt, although suffering from tendinitis and lower back pain, beat every tennis opponent age 55 to 59 who crossed her path. The Crofton resident of 22 years played three sets of tennis each day for five days consecutive in 90-degree weather to capture the gold.

"I was in awe of the ability of the senior athletes there," she said. "I was scared to death coming into the games. Once I hit the second round, I knew it wasn't going to be easy at all."

Mrs. Clemmitt represented Maryland at the nationals after capturing a first-place gold medal in Maryland's Senior Olympic Singles Tournament in October 1992. Of the 5,000 seniors nationwide who came to Baton Rouge, 200 were looking for the tennis gold.

Mrs. Clemmitt said her teaching experience in athletics and competitive spirit got her the medal.

Mrs. Clemmitt has been a coach, teacher and trainer since she graduated from Western Maryland College in 1959 with a B.S. in Physical Education. She later got an M.Ed in Guidance and Counseling. She's worked with students at area high schools and colleges in all areas of athletics and has never coached a losing team.

She credits her success to, "encouraging competitive spirit.

"Certain players have it built inside of them. And if you get all these people together -- you have a winning team," she said.

Mrs. Clemmitt was inducted into the Catonsville Community College Hall of Fame. She coached winning softball, field hockey, basketball and tennis players, helping to gain the attention that she said "was lacking in the area of female athletics.".

She even took the Catonsville Community college bowling team to the nationals and won first place.

But the all-around senior athlete, now national tennis star, didn't stop her teaching after leaving CCC in 1971. She turned her eyes to seniors at the Bowie Racket and Fitness Club.

There she's volunteered her coaching tips to seniors in both the U.S. Tennis Association Adult League and Seniors League. As a Captain, she has led them to the national championships three years in a row.

"Tennis is a great sport for seniors," she said. "Strength is not a factor, but aerobic conditioning is."

She said flexibility and quickness are some of the first things to go as a person ages, but light weight training and tennis practice weekly can slow the process.

Mrs. Clemmitt said her devotion to sports has become an addiction.

"It's ruled my life. I've had no other life since I was five, playing touch football with my dad and my star athletic brother," she said. "And even though I have the body of a 56-year old, in my head I'm 26 and I still want to do it all."

Next year, Mrs. Clemmitt will again enter the Maryland Senior Olympics for tennis. Until then, she hopes to create a seniors league in Bowie/Crofton and eventually take them to national competition.

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