Meet Maureen McDowell, 56, Gulfport resident, retiree, area native and… a gold medalist.
On Saturday September 30, McDowell took home not just one, but four gold medals at the International Beach Games in Clearwater, Florida. Her sport? Throwing.
McDowell competed in the Ultra Weight Pentathlon, a sport that has athletes competing in shot put, discus, hammer and javelin. Participants start by throwing 16, then 25, 35, 44 and finally 56 pounds with a winner in three categories: Weight, Ultra Weight, Super Ultra Weight, and an overall prize for scores combined.
It’s not necessarily common for one person win multiple categories in an Ultra Weight Pentathlon.
“When you get up to 56 pounds, and you think about how much weight that is,” said McDowell. “Some people don’t excel at that.”
McDowell took home medals for three individual categories and the overall win
This isn’t her first time winning medals or throwing weights. McDowell, a Gulfport native, has been practicing shot put for four years and added on the javelin, hammer and discus in the last two.
“I always loved playing sports. So when I hit my, I don’t know 50s or something like that, I said, ‘Man I’m missing something in my life, what can I do?’ And I heard about the Senior Games; I had no idea about them,” she explains. “I said, ‘I’ll do the shot put,’ so I found a shot put coach and started training and took my first gold medal. It reignited that passion, that competition passion.”
McDowell took her first gold medal in Rochester, NY in 2013 and has competed around the country since then, playing and placing in the Senior Olympics, the Gay Games, and the Huntsman World Games.
McDowell says she’s made friends at each meet she’s been to, her most recent a female competitor from New Zealand she met while throwing in Massachusetts over the summer.
Camaraderie among athletes is something McDowell says she loves about sports at the senior level.
“We’re helping each other out, giving each other tips,” she says. “It’s a beautiful community of people.”
Overall McDowell says her biggest cheerleader is her girlfriend, local artist Patsi Aguero. Aguero’s first time seeing McDowell compete was at the September International Beach Games in Clearwater.
“It is so exhilarating. There are thousands of people there competing. It’s like going into another world,” said Aguero, reflecting on her time at the games. “When she came out winning four blue – I mean gold – medals, I went ‘Holy crap!’ It’s really awesome.”
McDowell got started in senior sports in Highland Mills, NY where she spent the last 18 years. In the summer, she retired from her job as a utility instructor in natural gas, and moved back to Gulfport where she lives on Beach Blvd with her lab, Lily. She has plans to continue pursuing athletics, including the Florida Senior Olympics in December at Clearwater High School.
McDowell’s advice for other seniors looking to get into sports?
“Look for a local club, start slow and just keep moving,” she says. “That’s the key to me as we get older, is to keep moving. The minute I stop moving I can feel my aches and pains more. It’s a great thing to do. It gives you another focus in your life.”