Senior athlete Essie Faria has earned 20 gold medals over the past two years in Florida's Senior Games State Championships, but she says it's not about winning. Faria says she just enjoys the action. "It's wonderful."
Tallahassee, Florida -- The courtyard of the state Capitol was rockin' and rollin' Thursday as senior citizens from across Florida gathered to celebrate their day at the Statehouse.
The seniors energized the Capitol as part of the 2012 Ambassadors for Aging Day. Zumba dancers took over the courtyard and entertained the crowd with their spry moves and lively music.
The Florida Department of Elder Affairs along with Florida Sports honored two people as the Florida Senior Games Athletes of the Year.
Segismundo Pares, a powerlifter from Ocala, and Essie Faria of North Miami shared the top award. Essie competes in track and field, as well as table tennis.
She says her background as a dancer paved the way for her involvement in the senior games about five years ago and she loves participating.
"I think just being a senior and being out here and doing it is more important than just saying I won something, the fact that I'm out here doing it. I encourage everyone to come out and do it. It's wonderful."
Essie flashes an engaging smile as she talks about her experiences in the Senior Games and it's no wonder she's smiling. She earned eight gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the 2011 Florida Senior Games State Championships in Polk County last December.
If you add up all the medals she's won at the Senior State Championships over the past two years, the tally comes to 20 gold medals in four sports.
Essie has also set a bunch of records along the way in her 75 - 79 age group. She owns records in the 10K Road Race, 5K and 1500 meter Race Walk events, shot put and 800 meter run.
Pares has won gold medals in Powerlifting each year since 2007. At the 2011 Senior Games, he had a combined bench press/deadlift weight of 1,003 pounds.
Gov. Rick Scott attended the celebration along with Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Gov. Scott told the crowd all state leaders care about the state's senior citizens.
"Everybody up here knows that you built Florida. Everybody up here knows that you need to be treated with respect, every senior needs to be treated with respect. We are all very appreciative of the state that you built and you built it. Your hard work built it. Your taxes built it. Your policies built it. Everything you focused on, you have built this great state and we have an unbelievable state."
Essie Faria and Segismuno Pares earned the honor of Athletes of the Year from a group of more than 1,800 senior athletes competing in the Senior Games last year.