August 10, 2013 9:59:14 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Jean and Jim Bigelow never imagined when they started bowling that they would stay involved with the sport for as long as they have.
But after nearly 49 years of marriage, the Bigelows have shared countless memories from competing throughout the world in singles and mixed doubles bowling events.
The latest competition was one of the biggest. Last month in Cleveland, Ohio, the Bigelows, who live in Columbus, competed in the National Senior Games, a 19-sport, biennial competition for men and women 50 and over. The event is the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors.
The Bigelows didn't win a medal or a ribbon for placing in the top eight in the singles. They finished 11th as a mixed doubles team with a combined score of 952 in the 70- to 74-year-old age group. Jean had a high game of 167 in her three-game series, while Jim posted a high game of 200. Jean competed in the same age group in singles, while Jim competed in the 75- to 79-year-old age group.
"It was wonderful," Jean Bigelow said. "We have been doing this for about 11 years. We enjoy going to see old friends and making new ones. The best part of doing it is the folks you meet."
Jean and Jim Bigelow moved to Columbus in 1982 from Warner Robins, Ga. Jean, who is from the Lawrence County area near Monticello, met Jim, who is from New Jersey, while she was teaching school in Biloxi and Jim was training at Keesler Air Force Base, which is also in Biloxi. Next week, the Bigelows will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary. Next year, they will again try to qualify for the National Senior Games. The 2015 National Senior Games will be in Minneapolis, Minn.
Jean Bigelow said she first started bowling when she took an Introduction to Bowling class while she was a student at the University of Southern Mississippi. Jim said he picked up the sport after he left Keesler Air Force Base and went to Northern Japan as part of his work with the Air Force. The best the Bigelows have placed at the National Senior Games is sixth, which they accomplished at the Pittsburgh Games. They stay active in the sport twice a week as members of leagues in Columbus. They said the friendships they have made and the exercise they get from competing in bowling are valuable parts of their lives. It is an added bonus that they enjoy doing it together.
Earlier this week, Jean Bigelow said she was the first one to roll a ball at GT Lanes, a new family entertainment center in Columbus. They figure to be regulars at alleys throughout the state and the United States for as long as they are able to keep bowling.
"People ask me why I bowl," Jim Bigelow said. "I bowl for my health because one of the first things to go is your balance, and bowling is a sport that is great for balance purposes. If you fall off your shot and miss your mark the ball reacts differently.
"We enjoy it. As long as you have a little bit of flexibility, you can do it for a lifetime. Tennis is another one of the sports that with a little agility and a little movement you can continue playing. How well and to what level? That is secondary. I just look at it in terms of preventative medicine. It gives you a reason to get up and do something rather than sitting around on your duff and doing nothing. What you do in your retirement years is go find something that you enjoy doing and go do it."
Jim said he enjoys the individual aspect of the sport that forces competitors to adjust to the conditions of the lanes and to the balls. He said the adrenaline he and his wife get from competing adds to the fun. He said he wasn't "displeased" with how he bowled at the National Seniors Games. He said he converted some of the splits he had and didn't convert others, which he said is part of the game.
Traveling is another thing the Bigelows have shared. Bowling has allowed them to do both at the same time. Jim, who had two stints in Vietnam as a member of the Air Force, has taken them all across the country. Whether it has been in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Arizona, England, or Georgia, bowling has remained a part of their lives, even though Jim admits there have been times when he probably didn't bowl very often.
These days, though, Jim said he and his wife enjoy having the freedom of being able to play when they want. If they choose, they can even try to teach their four children and their grandchildren a thing or two about bowling.
"It is one of those things like riding a bicycle, you don't forget," Jim Bigelow said. "It might be a little wobbly when you get back on, but that is bowling. You never really forget."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.