Going for the Gold at the 2019 NVGAG - New Mexico VA Health Care System
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Going for the Gold at the 2019 NVGAG

Gretchen practices Bocce Ball for the NVGAG

Gretchen practicing for the NVGAG

By Ron Bassford, NMVAHCS Public Affairs Specialist
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Going for Gold at the 33rd Annual National Veterans Golden Age Games is no easy feat, but that’s just what Gretchen Rieck plans on doing at this year’s games. This will be Gretchen’s 3rd NVGAG that she will be participating in and she is looking forward to the competition at the games that will be held in Anchorage, Alaska, June 5-10.Gretchen competed in the 60-65 age group in Bocce Ball, Shuffleboard and Air Rifle at the Albuquerque games last year and the same events at the Biloxi Games in 2017. She will compete in the Boccia Ball and Air Rifle events this year. She hopes to improve from her 4th place finishes from a year ago, and has been practicing, usually twice a week per each event. Her fellow players tell her they have seen much improvement since last year.

“I used to watch the bocce ball players in downtown Albuquerque, where the local club had some courts. it looked fun, so thought I would try it,” said Rieck.

Rieck mentioned how she has always enjoyed shooting sports, but had moved away from them. Rieck said, “I use to be a competitive archer here in New Mexico until I had shoulder surgery when my right shoulder was injured. when I heard about air rifle, it sounded fun, so I signed up. it is a lot of fun and in my very first competition, I came in 4th place. And this year I hope to do better.” 

Last year's NVGAG was a lot of fun, and the fact that it took place here in Albuquerque really made it that more special. The New Mexico Chili’s had a record 54 competitors in the games a year ago. This year’s New Mexico team will likely send closer to 20 for the Alaska games. I like challenging myself, but I think meeting veterans from all over the country was the best part.  

NMVAHCS recreation therapist, Cat Ivy, has set up practice for several events, boccia ball, table tennis, horseshoes, 9 ball, and such in the rec hall, weekly, but air rifle practice has been once a month at a local high school JROTC shooting range. “I would like to practice more at air rifle, but there are no other range opportunities for this sport locally,” said Rieck.

Gretchen, a former US Army SGT, is no stranger when it comes to competition. She enjoys challenging herself, and also enjoys the comradery from her team mates and other Veteran athletes from all over the country. I asked Gretchen what is the most rewarding thing that she gets out of this type of competition. Rieck said, “Getting to meet other Veteran’s with the same sport interests is definitely the best thing about the games.”

Rieck stays very active these days. She is an avid walker and loves the outdoors. She has played competitively in many other sports when she was younger. She was also a torch bearer for the 1996 Olympics that were held in Atlanta, Georgia. She carried the torch throughout a small stretch in Texas. Gretchen stated that she still has the exact torch she carried saved and placed it into a display case at home for all to see. It is something she will never forget.

One thing is for sure, if she brings home the gold this year, it will be one more thing she or the New Mexico Chili’s team will never forget! Good luck to all the Veteran competitors this year and especially the NM Chili’s!



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