By Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
Carol Udovich is 90 years old and still competing for the Sheboygan Turners at national meets.
She attended the 55th American Turners National Festival in Fort Wayne, Ind., at the end of July with her two daughters, Roxanne St. Pierre and Michelle Lesperance.
“Everyone else at the festival would stop to watch and cheer her on,” Lesperance said. “It’s because it’s so amazing a 90-year-old can still go out and move her body the way she does.”
Wouldn’t bingo be easier?
“I’ve only played bingo once in my whole life,” Udovich said.
OK, why not bingo for the 67-year-old St. Pierre?
“Well, you know, some people do,” she said after chuckling. “But at the Planet Fitness in Sheboygan, my husband and I go there in the morning and there are a lot of people who are our age. So I’m not that much of a space alien, I guess.
“There are people who are trying to keep in shape, I just go a step further and add gymnastics to it. But I was raised with it. I’ve been going into the Turner gym three nights a week since I was a little kid. And Michelle, too. She grew up in the gym. We’re kind of gym rats. But we were raised that way.”
Maybe the 60-year-old Lesperance plays bingo?
“I was raised in a Turner household and Turners is our life,” she said. “I believe in a sound mind and a sound body, and that’s the way I try to live. That’s the Turner model: sound mind, sound body.”
St. Pierre, the president of the Sheboygan Turners, says the country-wide association began after German immigrants arrived so they could have a place to exercise in a gym. According to her, it “kind of evolved as society evolved and more people came into it.”
The national festival is held every four years and athletes compete according to age groups.
Udovich was in the 80-and-above age division and admits she was the oldest one there.
“I hate to say it, but I was,” she said.
There were about eight other competitors, but Udovich still took first place in a number of gymnastics events: the floor exercise, parallel bars, pommel horse, vault and all-around.
“You swing around and do things, and you mount and dismount,” Udovich said. “I tell you, I got a standing ovation with my floor exercise.”
In track and field, she placed second in the long jump, softball throw and all-around, and was third in the shot put and 50-meter run.
If I live to be 90, I sure as heck am not going to be doing anything close to this strenuous of an activity. In fact, I rarely exercise now.
“Well, I guess when you start when you’re 6 years old, you just keep going,” Udovich said. “Gymnastics was my whole life.”
St. Pierre, who still lives in Sheboygan and attended South, competed in the 65-to-69 age group.
She was first on the pommel horse, balance beam and all-around (gymnastics), second in floor, vault, 50 meters, hurl ball and all-around (track), and third in the shot put, standing long jump and 400 meters.
I asked her what people’s reaction is when she tells them what she’s up to lately.
“They kind of shake their head,” St. Pierre said. “I don’t know how many people really understand what kind of gymnastics. They might think I’m just rolling around on the floor, pretending, but it’s real competition for us. … We do real stuff and a lot of people our age are not doing that. But we work at it.”
Lesperance, who also went to South but lives in Kewaskum, won the 50 meters. She was runner-up in the standing long jump, fourth in the all-around (track) and hurl ball, and fifth in the 400 and shot put among 60-64-year-olds.
What I wanted to know is if Lesperance will still be doing this at the age of 90.
“I don’t know about that,” she said after a quick laugh. “I’m not going to answer that one.”
Her mother was not sure how to answer when asked if she’ll still be competing at the next festival in 2023.
“Everybody was asking me if they’ll see me next time,” Udovich said. “I told them I’ll be 94 and this is probably my last one. … Who knows? If I’m still alive and my daughters want to go, I’ll probably say, ‘sure, I’ll go.’”