At 79, Hoeppner a flurry of activity

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010
— Don Hoeppner of Whitewater is a man for all sports.

The 79-year-old Wisconsin Senior Olympic Hall of Famer runs, dribbles, jump shoots, strokes, spikes, serves, swings, fields, throws and rolls.

Hoeppner racked up five gold medals in basketball, volleyball, swimming (50-yard sidestroke), high jump and lawn bowling (doubles) at this month’s 31st Wisconsin Senior Olympics.

But wait; there’s more.

Hoeppner earned silver medals in softball, tennis (doubles), long jump and lawn bowling (singles).

But wait; there’s still more.

Hoeppner took bronze in swimming (50 backstroke), shot put and discus.

If you’re keeping count at home, Hoeppner made 12 trips to the podium. Swimming star Michael Phelps wins 16 medals in two Olympics, and everyone gets verklempt.

Hoeppner keeps his hand in recreational athletics in the Milwaukee area, and he hit his stride in the Senior Olympics.

“A friend introduced me to the Senior Olympics when I was 55,” Hoeppner said. “Ever since, I gained more interest and entered more things.’’

Hoeppner doesn’t have a fountain of youth in his backyard, but he is mindful of his diet to stay in competitive shape. He eats oatmeal three times a week, exercises and takes vitamins.

While Hoppner plays many sports, he claims he is not a natural athlete. He just likes to compete.

“At Milwaukee Washington High School, I played on a pretty good tennis team,” Hoeppner said. “I played football, but I was not good enough for the varsity, so I concentrated on other things. I was a cheerleader.’’

As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, Hoeppner kept his competitive fires burning.

“I just did intramurals,” said Hoeppner, who is a certified public accountant. “I played volleyball and basketball.

“We played in a basketball league on an independent team with dorm teams and frat teams,” Hoeppner said. “We played the winners of the frat and dorm leagues and won the campus championship in 1953.’’

Hoeppner has grown into a sports agent of sorts, keeping lists of possible players for Senior Olympic teams. Stocking a softball team with 70-year-olds isn’t easy.

“It’s a lot of hard work by me,” Hoeppner said. “I form a lot of the teams, talk to fellows and get them interested.’’

Looking ahead, Hoeppner plans to play on Wisconsin’s first 80-plus basketball team at the 2011 Senior Olympic National Games in Houston next June. Hoeppner successfully rounded up players.

“It’s going very good,” Hoeppner said of his recruiting. “You just don’t know who is going to be around eight months from now. I got a list of 100 guys.”

Hoeppner also plans to compete in 80-plus doubles tennis and on Wisconsin’s 75-plus volleyball team at the nationals.

If you want to jump on Hoeppner’s Wisconsin Senior Olympics bandwagon, call him at 262-473-8131. With Hoeppner holding the reins, it’s bound to be a great ride.

Last updated: 2:51 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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