Originally created 07/24/99

Athletes get unlikely venue



At the New Life Christian Center, ceiling fans turned quietly Friday, barely stirring the heated air in the non-air-conditioned sanctuary.

But the real action was across the hall, where Stan Sisler made a furious comeback to win the third game of his Men's A Division racquetball match with Paul Knoblock.

"It was a real tough match," said Sisler, a Richmond Academy graduate. "He's a very good player."

While most Georgia Games venues are typical of their events, the Christian Center seemed almost out of place.

The building -- a fitness center before New Life bought the place -- was transformed into a sanctuary and offices. But the renovations left intact four racquetball courts.

But Sisler, of Irmo, S.C., doesn't have a problem with the transformed athletic complex.

"I like it," he said. "I feel like God is here with me. Somebody said the other day that you can't swear. Well you shouldn't swear anyway."

The 38-year-old Sisler is among 20 South Carolina athletes who are part of the 55 racquetball competitors. Another is the oldest participant, 69-year-old Bob Miller.

The North Augusta native has played racquetball nine years, because the sport of handball is nearing extinction.

"It's like a golf ball," he said. "It will tear your hand up. So I went to the closest thing to it, which is racquetball."

Miller has played racquetball for nine years and plays for several reasons, but mainly to stay in shape.

"The President's Council on Fitness said it is one of the best sports for exercise," Miller said. "If I play golf, it takes four hours. I can play this in one hour and get all the exercise I need."

Miller, though, is not playing in the Georgia Games just for exercise.

"I plan to win," said Miller, who is ranked No. 6 in the nation in the 65-69 age group.

And Miller proves, once again, that age is just a number.

"Age isn't a factor," he said. "When you're competing with them, they want to beat your behind."

Chris Gay can be reached at (706) 868-1222 or cag112@hotmail.com.