Humana Game Changer Claudette Braswell Uses Focus and Accuracy to Win Florida Senior Games Gold

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CLEARWATER, Fla. — On the seventh of nine days of the 2018 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, athletes were busy hurling horseshoes across the court hoping to hear the clank of the iron post for a ringer at Ed C. Wright Park. They struck cue balls with sticks pushing them toward billiards balls numbered 1 through 15 into side and corner pockets at Stroker’s Sports Bar and Grill. On the second of four days of competition, players batted pickleballs back and forth across the net as mixed doubles teams.

After rolling 21 Sunshine Balls, in a competition creating healthy food snacks, among the Humana Game Changers Wednesday night at the Celebration of Athletes, Claudette Braswell, of Lake Wales, won the Horseshoes Women’s 80-84 age group gold medal with a 48.3 ringer percentage. In 60 throws, she had 29 ringers.

Her total was the second-highest percentage, behind Carl Nordquist, of Lake Wales, who hit 48 ringers in 90 throws for a 53.3 ringer percentage, to win the Men’s 80-84 gold medal.

It was Braswell’s 11th consecutive Horseshoes gold medal since 2008. Her Sunshine Balls rolling effort from the previous night earned a charitable contribution to the Lake Wales Care Center of over $6,000. The three other Game Changers honored, Leurene Hildenbrand, of Pinellas Park, Karen Westermann, of St. Petersburg, and James White, of Naples, also received a contribution to a charity of their choice for their award and competition efforts.

In the 2018 Florida Senior Games, Braswell is focusing on sports that involve focus and accuracy. In her competition in Horseshoes, Basketball Shooting and Bag Toss, she aims for a stationary target of a range of sizes, at a variety of distances, with different objects.

“When I’m competing, I have an inner peace and calm through my faith, that helps me with my focus,” she said. “I also exercising and stretch when I’m sitting out between games to also help me focus and stay calm. When I get back to pitching or shooting, I have a slow, relaxed and smooth delivery.”

She competes in Basketball Shooting on Saturday morning aiming for her 15th Free Throw Shooting gold medal in 16 years dating back to 2003. During the long run of gold medals, Braswell’s total of made free throws has never dropped below 20, for a 66.7% accuracy rate. He best effort came in 2008 when she hit 27 of 30 free throws.

She is also a regular gold medalist in the Spot and Timed Field Goal shooting events because of a three-day-a-week practice schedule on a local basketball court.

“About two months before the Senior Games, I begin practicing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6:30 to 9:00 a.m.,” Braswell said. “Then I pitch horseshoes twice a week with a local club.”

Her focus and determination are what earned her the 2007 Florida Senior Games Athlete of the Year and the Humana Game Changer honor in 2018.

A total of 65 Pickleball mixed doubles teams were on 10 courts at the North Greenwood and Ross Norton Recreation Center from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the 50-54 through 65-69 age groups.

Advancing through the 16-team, 65-69 age group bracket, to win the gold medal for the third time in four years was Deb Harrison and Ernie Tomlinson, of The Villages. Harrison and Tomlinson were undefeated in four matches and defeated Mary Ann Charmoz, of Dunedin and Dennis Sweeney, of Largo, 11-5, 11-3 in the final match.

It was Harrison’s 13 mixed doubles gold medal dating back to 2004. She has won gold medals in three different age groups and won the Women’s Singles gold medal in the 70-74 age group on Thursday.

Also winning her second gold medal in as many days was Erica Gonzalez, of Poinciana, who teamed with Eric Kennedy, of Englewood, to win the 13-team, 50-54 age group. Gonzalez and Kennedy defeated Rumi Gardner and Terry Schroeder, of Jacksonville, 11-3, 11-5 in the championship match.

Mixed Doubles and Men’s and Women’s Doubles continues on Saturday at the North Greenwood and Ross Norton Recreation Centers.

In the first of three days of Billiards competition at Stroker’s Sports Bar and Grill, Douglas Cotton, of Seffner, repeated as the Nine Ball 50-54 age group gold medalist.

Of the 35 players on the tables Friday, three carried the same last name. Bond Thornton, of Tallahassee, played in the Nine Ball Event with his sons Bruce and Eric.

While attending Florida State University, following a stint in the military service, Thornton worked at the University’s student union bowling alley, which also had pool tables. His sons tagged along with their dad and developed a talent for the game as well.

Bruce and Eric tied for third place in the 50-54 age group and Bond competed in a six-person pool in the 75-79 age group.

Saturday is the busiest of the nine days of the 2018 Florida Senior Games with the 5K Road Race, Race Walk and Power Walk and also the 20K and 40K Road Races at Crest Lake Park, Field Events of Track and Field being contested at Clearwater High School and Volleyball beginning play at the Morningside Recreation Center.

The Safety Harbor Recreation Center hosts Powerlifting and Bag Toss and Basketball Shooting and 3-on-3 Basketball will be played at Highland Recreation Center.

Pickleball continues as well as Billiards, with Eight Ball Singles competition at Stroker’s Sports Bar and Grills.

Over 2,600 athletes are competing in the 2018 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, in Clearwater and Pinellas County through December 9. The 2018 Games are a qualifier for the 2019 National Senior Games, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 14-25.

The 2018 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, are an annual presentation of the Florida Sports Foundation, the state’s leading sports promotion and development organization and are held in conjunction with Visit St. Pete Clearwater and the City of Clearwater.