Sports

Islander celebrates sixth basketball Masters Games gold medal

Pat Weinstein - Megan Managan/Mercer Island Reporter
Pat Weinstein
— image credit: Megan Managan/Mercer Island Reporter

It’s almost as if every medal that Pat Weinstein touches turns to gold. Well, at least when it comes to medals from the World Masters games, it’s certainly the truth. Weinstein, a Mercer Island resident, recently returned from his sixth master’s appearance during the Oct. 10-18 event in Sydney, Australia, where he picked up another gold medal after his 60-years-and-older premier basketball team beat out their challengers, 67-65.

The World Masters Games are held every four years, rotating around the globe. They often take place in former Olympic venues due to the sheer number of athletes ages 25 and over who come to compete in a wide variety of sports.

Weinstein is a lifelong basketball player who played in college and learned about the World Masters Games in curious fashion. After being invited to play on a South American team in Brazil in the late 1980s, Weinstein made contacts with people who later suggested that he join a team to compete in the next Masters event, held in Denmark in 1989.

The team that Weinstein competes with, which they affectionately call the Ancient Regime, features basketball players who were members of Division I college programs, and a few NBA and international players. While they currently compete in the premier classification, meaning that teams consist of people with international and national experience. Weinstein said that during their first years at the Masters games, the classifications were based on age, not experience, so often premiere teams would play competitive or recreational teams.

Since taking gold in 1989, the team has snagged the top spot in Brisbane, Australia, in 1994; Portland, Ore., in 1998; Melbourne, Australia, in 2002; and Edmonton, Alberta, in 2005.

Weinstein said it is a pretty small group of competitors to begin with at the premier level, and over the years the various teams that usually enter have gotten to know each other.

“The pyramid gets tighter as you get older,” he said of the teams and the competition. The ability to see teams from around the globe throughout the years has provided the Islander with an interesting view of history.

Weinstein said his first Masters came just after the Iron Curtain had begun to crumble in 1989. For the first time, many Eastern European countries were able to enter their own teams without having to play for the Soviets. Weinstein recalled how one afternoon in the locker room, after a match, one of those teams was loudly joking around with everyone, but fell silent when the Russian team came through the doors.

“One of the guys said, ‘Those guys were our former teammates,’” Weinstein said.

The Ancient Regime features players from across the country, Weinstein said, with one from New York, and a couple from Michigan, Ohio and California.

“Over the years, the group has held pretty close together,” he said. Between the Masters Games, Weinstein said the various players get practice as best they can, playing in leagues in their hometowns as much as possible. But because of their age, he said, finding masters programs can prove challenging.

“Detroit and Chicago actually have big masters programs,” he said. “Once we get there [to the games], we practice, but we’ve played together for long enough we know what each other is doing.”

This year marked another first for the group as the team split in two after 15 years of competing together.

“This year, the team split in two and they were our biggest competition, so it was all the sweeter that we beat them in the finals,” said Weinstein. “It’s really a fun atmosphere.”

The next World Masters Games are scheduled for Turin, Italy, in 2013, where Weinstein and the team will no doubt look to earn their seventh gold.

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