“I’m not in the record books on any of it, but I have more fun,” said New Mexico Senior Olympics athlete Kay Tinnen, a sun-tanned MAN from Zuni. (he laughingly told of one year he was assigned a suite with women because of a misunderstanding about his gender.)
“I had three open heart surgeries,” he said. “What I really like about the Olympics is it’s such a neat thing for people like me, to keep us in some kind of activity. I’m really sold on it.”
Tinnen is so sold, in fact, that now he is selling others, including his soon-to-be 50 year old son. “My son is real interested in these Olympics. He is going to be a guest and room with me.”
At 73, Tinnen still walks in the hills near Zuni with his dogs forthree miles every day. He thinks it’s really important for people to participate in the Olympic games because it gives them a reason to exercise. “In any age group you have to be good and to be good you have to practice,” he said.
“I enjoy meeting people. Not just Olympic people, but people in the area,” he said about why he travels across New Mexico to participate in the games. Tinnen is looking forward to returning in Las Cruces for this year’s state Olympic games. “I’ve liked everywhere we went, but in Las Cruces everything is close, everything is so nice and so easy to get around. In the evenings they have bands playing and practicing in the dorms.”
This year, Tinnen is not so concerned about actual competition itself. “Some of the events scare the hell out of me,” he said. “Usually I’m so nervous, I don’t have a chance. But this year I’m not going to get nervous. I’m just going to have fun. I’m not so determined to get medals.”
That may be because he has so many already. Tinnen said he has won about 20 medals in his five or so years with the Olympics. It’s possible he may add to that number in one of the five events for which he is registered: airgun, discus, shot-put, 8-ball pool, and the 800m estimated walk.
Tinnen explained that participants in the estimated walk guess how ling it will take them to finish the course. Walkers win based on how close they were to that estimate.
Born and raised in Durango, Colorado, Tinnen served four years in the Navy at the end of World War II. He was a butcher stationed in Saigon and China. In 1950, he moved to New Mexico to work for an uncle as a wholesaler, buying jewelry, pelts and livestock with due bills rather than cash. He retired in 1985.
“I’ll continue as long as I can do it and afford it,” Tinnen predicted. “That’s one thing I like about that airgun stuff. If I get to the point where I can’t do anything else, I’ll sit and shoot, as long as I can see.”