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October 16, 2002

NW Greensboro's John Stone Qualifies for Senior Olympics
By Sandra Smith

Like many local residents, John Stone enjoys a good game of basketball. But if you go head to head with him in a friendly game of "Horse," you're likely to lose. You see Stone has qualified for the National Senior Games for the third year running in shooting basketball. On October 4, he came in second in the state to again be eligible to compete in the Senior Olympics.
Stone, 58, has always played basketball. He played in high school in Nashville, N.C., the county seat of Nash County, and later played some in college and while he was in the service. Even after he went to work, he continued to play. "I was always in a rec or Industrial league, or just playing pick-up games" he says.
About seven years ago, Stone, who lives in the Guilford College area, had something of an epiphany. Life was passing by too quickly. He had worked for several textile giants, including Stephens, Burlington, Sara Lee and Kayser-Roth. Now working as a plant manager for a Japanese company, he had been putting in 60-hour work weeks for many years, something which was beginning to take its toll. At that time, he decided to go into business for himself. Stone and his wife, Helen, purchased three vending machines, a number which has now grown to 20. Now spending 25 to 30 hours per week working, Stone was able to slow down and do some of the things he enjoyed.
He entered a local basketball shootout in Greensboro about three years ago, which required participants to shoot 25 3-point shots. Stone won, then went to the state finals in Wilmington, then on to the national event in Las Vegas, where he came in fourth place. Not yet 55, Stone says he couldn't wait to reach that age, when he could start competing in the Senior Olympics. When he turned the magic age, he started entering competitions at Greensboro's Smith Senior Center. He now says he enters 12 to 15 events annually, including table tennis, shot put and discus, although basketball is his specialty. "I can't jump and I can't run anymore, but I can still shoot," he says with a laugh.
One might think that before a competition, Stone practically sleeps with a basketball in his hands. Not so. "I really don't do any training," the Michael Jordan and Larry Bird fan says. However, he arrives at a competition with plenty of tine to warm up. "By the, it's sort of like riding a bicycle," he says, smiling.
While Stone says that in his younger days, he probably practiced "millions of shots," he concedes that as he has gotten older, it's just not as important. He says he didn't even have a basketball in his hands for three months prior to the recent state games. He arrived at the venue about 1½ hours before the event was to begin, so the felt warmed-up and confident by the time the competition started. " I was real pleased with how things turned out," he says of his silver medal, and the opportunity to advance to the nationals. In his nonchalant way, he admits he doesn't even know when they are to be held.
His "lifestyle change," as the calls it, has also allowed Stone to pursue other interests. He is able to spent time reading, playing the piano, attending plays, and collecting wine, something he has been doing for 30 years. He and is cat, Lafite (named for one of his favorite wines), sometimes watch one of the approximately 1,200 movies that he owns. Stone works in his yard, and watches the birds and an occasional squirrel at the bird feeders on his deck. He and Helen, a teacher at Guilford Middle School, have also started collecting painted boxes which depict Russian legends on them.
His schedule also fits better with that of his wife's, and has allowed the two to do more traveling, something his previous work schedule would never have allowed. "I have less stress," he says.
"Life is better now."