NEW BRITAIN - The Connecticut Mastersâ€™ Games is set to begin on Friday, kicking off a weekend packed with sporting events for participants aged 30 to 95 years old.
The event, sponsored by Care Partners of Connecticut, is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and expecting one of its largest turnouts with competitors ranging from Connecticut to California, and even some from Ontario and Quebec.
â€śItâ€™s definitely a big deal,â€ť said Patrick Fisher, Executive Director of the Games. â€śI think we put on a very nice event for our audience and weâ€™ve gained a reputation over the years of a well-run event. Itâ€™s helped us increase our participation over the past few years.â€ť
The weekendâ€™s biggest event, the three-day pickleball tournament, has gone a long way in bringing more competitors to the event. The tournament is the only event that begins on Friday, and will take place at Wesleyan University in Middletown. Fisher estimates the event to bring in more than 350 participants, ranging from individual tournaments to menâ€™s and womenâ€™s doubles events.
â€śPickleball is growing like a weed,â€ť Fisher said. â€śItâ€™s the largest event, no question about it.â€ť
Sixteen different states will be represented in the tournament, including two competitors from Canada. The 50-55 age group is the largest representation in the tournament, but includes athletes ranging from 30-plus to the 85-89 age group.
â€śIt's the fastest growing sport in America right now,â€ť Fisher said. â€śIt's become a huge draw over the past five years especially with the 30-70 demographic.â€ť
The Games and the pickeball tournament continues on Saturday, as will the track and field meet at Veterans Stadium in New Britain, which is sanctioned through USA Track and Field. Roughly 250 participants are registered for various events, including an athlete flying in from California and a Southington resident in Raul Rodrigues, who at 95 years old represents the oldest competitor at the Games this year.
Three more events kick off on Saturday as well, including the menâ€™s 3-on-3 basketball tournament at New Britain High School and the womenâ€™s slow pitch softball tournament at Sage Park in Berlin. Six teams are registered for the tournament, including three from Connecticut, two from New Jersey and one from New York. The tournament begins at 9 a.m., with the final game scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. Back at New Britain High, the tennis tournament starts at 9 a.m. with menâ€™s and womenâ€™s singles, with doubles events scheduled to begin immediately after.
The final three events of the weekend begin on Sunday, and include a womenâ€™s 3-on-3 basketball tournament, a cycling time trial and criterium at Walnut Hill Park and a swim meet at CCSU, completing a weekend of seven total events that are free for the public to attend. The roads in Walnut Hill Park will be closed off for the cycling event.
In addition to the 40th anniversary of the Games themselves, this marks the 10th year that New Britain has hosted the Games. The city has hosted the Mastersâ€™ Games and the Nutmeg State Games since 2010.
â€śWe're grateful for the support of the mayor's office, New Britain Parks and Rec and the Consolidated School District [of New Britain] for their continued support of these events,â€ť Fisher said. â€śWe couldn't do it without the support of those organizations.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com