Seasoned competitor keeps climbing mountains

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DOTHAN, AL (WTVY) At first glance, mountain biker John Michel may appear like any other athlete gearing up for the Alabama State Games.

But, one factor sets him apart from the competition.

“Well, I’m 74 years old,” said Michel, who will compete Saturday in the State Games Mountain Biking competition.

Michel was born in 1942. He’s been riding for more than three decades.

“I probably have 250,000 miles under my belt total for a lifetime, that’s a lot of miles,” said Michel.

And while he may be the most “experienced” rider competing in this year's mountain biking competition, don’t let age fool you - he can shred a trail better than most.

“I’m bad about rubbing it in, I have to confess," said Michel. "They’ll be 30 years younger than I am.”

Each year, the State Games give athletes like Michel a chance to show off their skills.

“You see athletes coming across from different states, across Alabama, young and old, those with disabilities, so it’s a very diverse event,” said Anthony Terling, Alabama State Games Vice President of External Affairs.

This weekend, 3,000 athletes will square off in traditional and not-so-traditional sporting events. In addition to popular sports like baseball and swimming, competitions like team hand ball and disc golf have become widely popular.

“No other activity that we have would encompass so many activities," said Kim Meeker, Dothan Leisure Services. "We may be thinking about major sports like football, baseball, soccer and all those are wonderful, but there are so many other things that are going on in Dothan.”

The State Games not only showcase a diverse group of athletes and sports, but they also put Dothan’s top-notch recreational facilities in the limelight. Westgate Park, Miracle Field and more will be filled with thousands of spectators.

“Looking forward to the showcase it gives us for our facilities that we’re very proud of and work hard to take care of,” said Meeker. "It’s just really kind of exciting. It’s like a little Olympics that we have.”

“This isn’t a huge metropolis area, but these areas are competitive with anywhere else in the state. These athletes have seen it and they’ve said it,” said Jason Perkins, Alabama State Games Vice President of Information Technologies.

And like the Olympics, the State Games has a way of uniting everyone, whether you’re competing to capture gold medals or just the fountain of youth.

“There’s something about the rush of mountain biking," said Michel. "The trees just flying by – that is exhilarating. I really think it’s youth-inducing. I really do.”

John Michel was a professor for 27 years at Wallace Community College. He’ll compete in the mountain biking competition on Saturday at Noon at Forever Wild Trails. We wish him – and all of the athletes – the best of luck.

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