Location: Laguna Pueblo
What do you do when, after running for 50 years, your knees give out? You pick another sport in which to compete if you are John Pino of Laguna Pueblo.
“I was going to quit and my daughter said, ‘You can do something else. You used to do archery and you should start practicing.’ So I did,” Pino said. He made a good choice. Pino holds six New Mexico senior records in archery and javelin.
Of course, not many people are trying to beat those records. At 101 years old, Pino faces few, if any, challengers at local state or national events. (Players compete with others in their five-year-age bracket: 50-55 or 85-96, for example.) when he was 99 years old, Pino was the oldest athlete to compete in the 1999 Summer National Senior Olympic Games. He began competing at the national level in 1989 and has gone to each of the biennial games since.
“I like the competition,” Pino said. “I have quite a few medals and trophies. When I was young, I never did anything. I herded sheep and didn’t get to go to school right away because my grandpa didn’t let me.”
When he did get to attend school, at age 17, Pino joined the cross county and baseball teams. The activity he enjoyued most, however, was playing trumpet and saxophone in the school band. His school band played in the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, California one year.
When Pino graduated at 31, in the midst of the Depression, “there was nothing, no work,” he said. “When I came back from school, I helped my uncles with the sheep and cattle herding, then I went to work for the government at a dollar a day.” Pino later moved back to Laguna and eventually began a career as a locomotive machinist for the Santa Fe Railroad. When a friend foresaw the change from steam to diesel engines, he studied the new machines and became a diesel mechanic.
Pino and a group of friends organized a 55-member banc that included musicians from eight different Native American tribes. In 1953, this Santa Fe All Indian Band traveled by Pulman car to play at President Eisenhower’s inauguration.
He traveled to Washington, D.C. again in the fifties and sixties as a member of the Laguna tribal administration. The tribe sought and obtained federal funding for water sanitation, and school and hospital construction.
In the meantime, Pino worked for the Anaconda mines as a mechanics helper and gatekeeper. He retired at 72. Then, too, his daughter Pauline persuaded him to keep active.
“When I retired, I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything,’ and Pauline said, ‘You can’t just site. You have to do some exercise.”
At 80 Pino said he was playing pool at a senior citizen meeting when he heard about the Senior Olympics. That evening he told his wife they should join in. He decided to run and his wife decided to play baseball and basketball as she had in school in her childhood. Pino ended up competing in horseshoes, basketball throw, and running ling jump. He has attended the state games every year since 1986. “At that time they didn’t mention about archery,” he said.
Pino will be competing in the archery event at the New Mexico Senior Olympics in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Saturday, June 2. Approximately 1450 athletes will participate in team and individual sports, May 30 through June 3. Events include airgun, billiards, cycling, golf, racewalk, shuffleboard, swimming, tennis, track, basketball, dance and bowling, and more.
New Mexico Senior Olympics is committed to helping communitites across the state to provide senior adults with opportunities for healthy and active lifestyles. Senior Olympics promotes year-round programs that encourage athletes to participate in physical, mental, and social programs. For more information on Senior Olympics call your local senior services office.