ST. GEORGE — Although her own events at the Huntsman World Senior Games pickleball tournament were over, Bernie Darien of St. George was still at The Fields at Little Valley on Thursday. She was waiting to referee other matches.
Darien won a gold medal in this year’s Senior Games with Monte Long in the women’s 80-84 doubles and a silver medal with Paul Alcantra in the 80-84 mixed doubles. She and Long did not place in the women’s 3.0 doubles.
When asked why she enjoys pickleball, the first thing Darien mentioned was the social aspect.
“And it keeps me young with the exercise,” she added. “And there’s less court to cover than tennis.”
Darien said she has participated in Senior Games in tennis for 17 years, giving up the sport two years ago.
She began playing pickleball shortly before that.
“We moved here from Colorado to get out of the snow,” Darien said of her and husband, Sonny. Bernie and Sonny Darien have been married for 60 years, but Sonny doesn’t play pickleball because of macular degeneration in his eyes, Bernie said.
“We moved here mainly because of tennis,” she said, “but when we moved to SunRiver, we found about pickleball.”
As she began playing, Darien became an advocate for the sport. She said she brought it to her hometown of Carbondale, Colorado, where she received permission to place pickleball lines on the city’s tennis courts. Pickleball courts are about one-half the size of tennis courts.
Darien’s family members have also become advocates for the sport.
“I have two kids and they both play pickleball,” she said. “They’re both over 50. My daughter plays and my son plays once a year. Whenever the kids and grandkids come, the first place we head is the pickleball courts.”
Darien said she loves St. George.
“St. George is a great community to live in. It’s just a very friendly, very caring community.”
David Jordan, the president of the USA Pickleball Association, the sport’s governing body, and his wife moved to St. George because of the sport. He is director of the Huntsman World Senior Games tournament, which goes on for five days with 650 players. He began playing in the Senior Games in 2004 and moved to Southern Utah to work full time for the organization 3 1/2 years ago.
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