85-year-old pickleball champion shows it's never too late

- Even at 85-years-old, Leurene Hildenbrand is finding ways to improve herself. 

"Competition is fun, competition is improving yourself," she explained. 

After Hildenbrand retired in her 50s, she picked up table tennis. Later, she found out she enjoys pickleball. Hildenbrand also cycles, rollerblades, and is a violinist. 

"I've always been active," she said. "Every sport that I try, I like. So, I added it. That's how I ended up with so many different sports that I participate in." 

Hildenbrand loves all sports, so much so, she can't pick out one that's her favorite. She enjoys the comradery and competition, especially right now, with the Florida Senior Games in town this week where she's participating in the pickleball tournament at the Long Center in Clearwater.

"It's an enjoyment. I have lots of laughs. I just enjoy it," said Hildenbrand. "If I don't do a good job out there, that's okay, because I learned from that."  

It's that attitude that instills even more motivation within Hildenbrand. She is an ambassador for pickleball, and even helped start a club in Honduras earlier this year. 

She keeps a busy schedule, filling her days with friendly competition, that is, when she's not playing for a medal.   

Hildenbrand said she's won more than a thousand medals from the Senior Games, all of them tucked away in a box in her basement. 

It's the impact she makes on others that has her really winning. 

"I want to be better and I want to reach out to people who say, like I said, 'I don't think I can do that.' I don't say that anymore. I know I can do that."

"I say to them, if you haven't even tried, go and try it." 

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