Ridgefield resident wins gold medal in basketball at the Huntsman World Senior Games

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Jim Nielsen’s basketball career is as bright as it always has been. At nearly 78 years old, Nielsen competed at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, located in the southwest region of Utah.

At the event, which ran from Oct. 4 to Oct. 16, Nielsen and his teammates took home a gold medal in basketball.

Nielsen, a Battle Ground High School alumnus of 1961, played on the basketball team for three years as a forward, measuring at 6 feet and 2 inches. He became interested in the game when he was 7 or 8 years old.

“We lived in a barn, and my dad put up a basket in there, so that’s where we’d play,” Nielsen said. “At that time, there were no gyms anywhere to play basketball, so the neighbors from Orchards would come out to our place to play in the barn. So you could say we had a classified gym in the Brush Prairie area.”

His basketball career didn’t stop after high school. He went on to play for the Vancouver City League while he worked in real estate developing properties. Nielsen said the league would play in honor camps and all over Clark County, describing it as “gym rat basketball.”

As a real estate agent, he subdivided land and helped build houses, something he is proud of achieving.

Once a basketball player turns 50 years old, Nielsen said they are classified as a “master.”

“Once you get into the Masters, you play in increments of five years, so you’re not playing against people out of your age,” he said. “I started playing at 50, then into 55 and 60 and so forth. Right now I’m in the 75 (to) 80-year-old bracket.”

Nielsen stays in shape through the sport. He said he is fortunate that he never had problems with his knees.

As for diet, Nielsen has a fast metabolism and has always stayed skinny, which he said is a trait he got from his parents. His father was 6 feet 2 inches tall and his mother was 5 feet 8 inches. Nielsen said they were “never heavy.” 

“I could eat whatever I wanted to and as much as I wanted to, and I still do,” he said.

As far as Nielsen is concerned, he is a perfectly healthy man. The only hiccup are his “senior moments,” where he forgets certain things, but to no greater of a degree than his peers.

Basketball is not the only sport he’s played, as he has also dabbled in softball, playing as recently as this year. He started around 1965.

Despite how drastically COVID-19 has affected senior citizens, Nielsen said he luckily was never infected. He also got vaccinated as soon as he was able, which has given him the opportunity to play in the senior games this year.

At the Huntsman World Senior Games, Nielsen said there are about 10,000 people who participate over a two-week span. The games feature a variety of sports like track, shooting, dancing, volleyball and golf.

The age limit to participate is 80, because Nielsen said “nobody is playing after they’re 80 years old.”

Nielsen has lived in Ridgefield with his wife for three years. He will turn 78 on Oct. 30.

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