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Shooting for Fun, Bringing Home Gold

It’s just a game for Senior Olympic billiards player Blaine Jacobs

What Olympic athlete would say the game is not about winning?
    For one, Blaine Jacobs, Maryland’s Senior Olympic Gold Medalist in the sport of billiards.
    In a small room with three pool tables in a row, five or six friends take turns setting the ball rolling. There’s little sign of old age at the O’Malley Senior Center in Odenton, with all the laughing and hard-focused seniors working on their next shot. In the corner of the room, wearing his unmistakable yellow Olympic shirt, is Blaine Jacobs, the player who took home the Gold again this year at the Senior Olympics in Silver Spring, Maryland.
    Jacobs, 65, began playing pool at 15. He’d found an idol — a player whose shots were quick and his attitude humble — who inspired him. Jacobs played hard and learned a lot. Within a year, he was playing his idol. Jacobs won.
    Two years later, he joined the Marines and put down the cue stick for decades.
    Three years ago, after retirement, he found himself with a bit more free time. His wife urged him back to the game. Competing in tournaments at the senior center, he finds himself relaxing and having fun. The guys all poke fun and call him The Golden Boy.
    “It’s better than a reality show in here,” Jacobs mutters.
    While the games are all fun now, it didn’t begin that way.
    “The first year was probably my hardest challenge. I got so frustrated and couldn’t play like I wanted to, so I almost gave up,” he said.
    A fellow player suggested that he learn to enjoy the game rather than worrying about winning. For a perfectionist, this was no small feat. Once Jacobs realized that she was right, his game improved.
    “Sportsmanship is the most important thing around here,” Jacobs tells me. “There are people who really care only about winning and who will let losing a match ruin their whole day. For me, when someone else beats me, it could be six times in a row, and I’m just happy for them.”
    Humility relaxes his stance, but you can still see determination. Before the camera can click, his cue speeds the ball forward.
    In Jacobs’ second year of playing in retirement, a friend suggested he give the Senior Olympics a shot. With no expectations except the fun of a new tournament, Jacobs signed up. He took home the gold.
    In the next two years, his medal collection grew, this year adding one silver and another gold.
    “Sometimes you just have lucky days,” Jacobs says.