STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Seventy-year-old Dana Delgado is a national basketball champion.
The Burnet County resident is a member of the Chicago North Stars 3-on-3 basketball team, which won gold in the National Senior Games. The event was held June 14-25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and featured more than 14,000 athletes and dozens of competitions in basketball and other team sports, shuffleboard, swimming, track and field, and more.
The North Stars defeated the Oklahoma Classics 23-15 for the title. Games are divided into 15-minute halves.
“While we had won medals at various state tournaments over the years and at the World Games, this victory was sweet,” Delgado said. “We all worked so hard to prepare. To win the title is so rewarding for all the work.”
The North Stars competed in the 70s age division with 17 other teams. The squad went 2-2 in pool play then reeled off five straight wins to take gold at The Pit on the University of New Mexico campus.
Delgado started playing basketball in the Senior Games in 2008. She developed “serious” nerve damage in both legs and was later diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy.
“Neuropathy has caused me serious motor and sensory issues,” she said. “I have no feeling in either leg and minor feeling in my hands.”
However, quitting basketball was not really an option.
“Staying active is the best treatment because there is no medical treatment,” she added.
In 2010, Delgado was the Most Valuable Player on her Team Canada squad, which captured the gold medal during the Huntsman World Games in St. George, Utah. She joined the Canadian squad after she and several other players arrived at the tournament without a team. The team was organized by a Canadian athlete but made up of players from various states and provinces.
She joined the Chicago team in 2013 when she was unable to find a Texas team. As a result, the Chicago team has become like family, she said.
“The relationship has endured thanks to our friendships,” she added.
In 2013, at the National Senior Games in Houston, the North Stars lost all six games it played. Team members were nursing various injuries or fighting a myriad of illnesses. Delgado was trying to manage a major tumor on her salivary gland as well as other health issues at the time.
Her teammates cope with major health issues such as Parkinson’s disease, brain aneurysms, cancer, severe nerve damage, and heart surgeries.
“Participation in the National Senior Games is a testament to the courage and determination of individuals over the age of 50 to stay physically active and mentally challenged through their senior years,” she said.
After almost quitting a few months ago, Delgado competed in this year’s tournament feeling like she was 10 years younger. She had to stop playing after suffering a concussion in 2016 that started a two-year downward health spiral. She credits dear friend Viva Caldwell for her “remarkable comeback.”
Caldwell charted and guided her recovery. Delgado lost 30 pounds and overcame chronic neuromuscular pain and serious breathing issues.
“While there are still a number of challenges, there is hope and determination with the help of my good friend and family, encouragement from my Senior Games teammates, and the support of the Neuropathy Alliance of Texas.”
The next Senior Games will be held in 2021 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.