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Hearts GAO 03 webRick Light is a competitor.

Whether he’s playing cards online or in person, hitting the pickleball courts on a regular basis, or riding his bike daily, he thrives in and around competition.

“Today is the first day I haven’t ridden my bike,” the St. Paul, Minn. native said during a break from the City of McAllen’s Golden Age Olympics “hearts” competition at Lark Community Center. “I rode it up here last year. I was going to do it today.”

The weather, however, just said no. With temperatures hitting the low 30s and some claims of a “flake” falling from the sky here and there, Light joined 13 other card players, looking for “a run” during a hand or two along with enjoying some camaraderie.

Hearts GAO 05 webLight is an avid hearts player, learning the game with his dad while growing up. Now retired – “well, somewhat” Light plays daily online. He said it preps him for events like this. The biggest difference, of course, is the human aspect.

“You don’t have to be social online,” he joked.

Light will also compete in pickleball, a sport he plays 3-5 times weekly – competitively, of course. One time, he left his headband in a sink with the water running and rode his bike back home. The former hearts champion realized it after he got home.

“So, I rode back to get it,” he said. “When I got there, someone fortunately turned the water off and my headband was there.”

Marks of a true competitor.

A former high school swimming and diving coach, that competition runs through his veins. After retiring, he was lured back into coaching.

Hearts GAO 01 web“I just enjoy it,” he said, adding that the rare frigid Valley temperatures wasn’t his fault. “I’ve been down here for two months. And we’ve been having beautiful weather.”

Hearts is just one of the card games offered during the Golden Age Olympics. There’s also Pinochle, Euchre and 500 among others.

“It's kind of embarrassing but this is the only time I actually play with people,” he said. “I play online – it’s people online of course, but you don’t have to talk to them and be social. I play daily. It helps my game here.

“You have to maintain the social aspect when you play in person. You’re trying to maintain focus; you’re chit-chatting and there’s a lot more tensions playing with people – you don’t want to hurt their feelings. Online you just don’t care.”

For Light, the camaraderie is great, but the greatest enjoyment is the competitions in every event – and whether he has to drive or ride his bike, Light will be there. By the way, the bike ride from his lot at Paradise Park to Lark Community Center is about 12 miles.