Racquetball champion, 87, turns to tai chi

May 14 2013 - 12:18am

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Norman Skanchy, a former national racquetball champion, leads a tai chi class at the Eccles Community Art Center in Ogden on Tuesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Norman Skanchy, a former national racquetball champion, leads a tai chi class at the Eccles Community Art Center in Ogden on Tuesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Norman Skanchy, a former national racquetball champion, leads a tai chi class at the Eccles Community Art Center in Ogden on Tuesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Norman Skanchy, a former national racquetball champion, leads a tai chi class at the Eccles Community Art Center in Ogden on Tuesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Norman Skanchy, a former national racquetball champion, leads a tai chi class at the Eccles Community Art Center in Ogden on Tuesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Norman Skanchy, a former national racquetball champion, leads a tai chi class at the Eccles Community Art Center in Ogden on Tuesday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)

OGDEN -- A few years ago, Norman Skanchy was in a racquetball tournament in Phoenix. His opponent was younger than he and exercised like mad to prepare for the event. Skanchy thought the competition was going to be tough.

"I got in there and tore him apart," Skanchy said. "After the tournament, he came up and asked me if I would mind telling him what I did to get ready."

Skanchy told him he did tai chi.

"He told me he was going to start doing tai chi," Skanchy said.

Skanchy, 87, started taking tai chi lessons from an 80-year-old master in China. Now he teaches it himself.

"I love it because it helps your balance, strengthens your muscles, makes you strong and exercises your body," he said. "I'm actually very healthy."

One of his students, Barbara Elmer, said she won't miss his class.

"I will put anything else off not to miss that class," she said. "He is a great teacher and very inspiring to the whole class. We have a lot of fun and are like a big family. It's a very relaxing exercise, and it also really helps you sleep at night."

Skanchy is also a former national racquetball champion and holds 12 titles in both the single and double divisions.

"I played for the U.S. National Master's Racquetball Association and was involved until two years ago," he said. "My partner and I were going to go to a tournament in Kansas City. We were practicing, and he accidentally knocked me down. I broke my hip and my wrist, so obviously we decided we weren't going."

He hasn't slowed down one bit, though. Not only does he teach tai chi at the Eccles Community Arts Center twice a week, he's an artist and an ice skater.

"I used to teach figure skating, and I hadn't been on the ice rink for 40 years, but I've been back six times. I did fall and tear up my chest pretty good, but there were no broken bones, and I plan to go back," he said.

Skanchy was born and raised in Logan. He graduated from Utah State University with a degree in art education. He is an avid artist and sculptor and had an article published about his work in National Art Magazine. He is planning to show off his work at an exhibit later this year at Union Station. Skanchy also taught art in the Ogden City School District and was a principal and director of elementary education. After he retired, he taught art at Weber State University.

Skanchy, with his wife, Elma, who died in November, has three children. He also owns a dog named Duke.

"I no longer talk to the walls. I talk to Duke," he said. "And he talks back. He looks out for me and worries about my well-being. The other night I was saying my prayers. He came in and saw me kneeling at the side of the bed and thought something was wrong with me and started howling like crazy. I had to stop and tell him I was fine. He's a great companion."

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