The 27th edition of the BC Seniors Games were held in Langley from September 9th to 13th and some memorable times were had by thousands of participants from all over the province. Just over 3,900 people participated in the Games, including over 1,000 from the host zone. Approximately 1,200 volunteers made the Games a success.
Zone 3, which comprises the Fraser Valley, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and Mission, won the competition with a total of 622 medals, well ahead of the 447 earned by the Lower Mainland district of Zone 4. The real winners, however, were all the participants who got to compete in their various sports and activities, representing their communities in the process. Some are old hats, having competed in many games, while others were trying their hands for the very first time. One thing they all had in common was a spirit of camaraderie and the enjoyment of being able to compete.
One such competitor was John Markham, a 70-year-old darts player. He has been playing darts since discovering the game as a teenager in England, and has even won the Dominion singles title in 2002 when representing the local Legion, as well as several BC Seniors Games medals in the past few years. Playing at home, he won a gold, a silver and two bronze medals.
“I really enjoyed playing with my teammates from Zone 3,” says John. “Being at home made me more relaxed, and I felt it was a real advantage to be able to sleep in my own bed. The whole experience is great, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. The events were well run and the venue was excellent, which is not always the case.”
One Langley resident competing in her first Games was Betty Millen, who won a silver medal. In addition to playing, she volunteered prior to the Games in the accreditation sections. One part of the Games she particularly enjoyed was the Opening Ceremonies.
“The opening ceremonies were great,” says Betty. “As the host community, we walked in last and there was quite a good group of people in the stands to watch. The ceremony was opened by a Chief and his son welcoming us to the land and giving us his blessing, followed by lots of speeches from government dignitaries. After some great entertainment, the torch was brought in and lit, officially opening the Games. It was so much like a mini-Olympics. And as it was my first experience, I was quite impressed.”
Evelyn Neufeldt is another Langley golfer who enjoyed success, winning a gold medal in the 75-79 year old age group. This makes her two for two in the Games competitions as she also won a gold medal in 2006 when the Games were held in Abbotsford, her only previous Games experience.
“The qualifying round for our zone was held at Royalwood in Chilliwack, and I was delighted to learn I had qualified and would be representing our community,” says Evelyn. “There is always a certain amount of pressure and excitement in any tournament and the Seniors Games were no different. Both courses did a tremendous job with the organization and everything went very smoothly. Langley can be proud of the many volunteers who stepped up to help where it was needed. I always enjoy meeting fellow golfers who have the same love of the game of golf as I do.”
Seventy-six-year-old Robert Porter has been golfing for more than half a century. These were his first Games and he won a bronze medal. Now he has the hunger to compete again next year.
“I am looking forward to competing in the Games in North Vancouver because they have couple of great courses I have never played,” says Robert. “I met some nice fellows at the Games and golfed with one man from Kamloops, one from Salmon Arm and one from Cranbrook. We played the second day at Newlands, a course I have been a member at for 20 years, so I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, while the weather and the course were both in great shape my game was not. I made a couple of bad mistakes and there you are. Newlands did a superb job with the medal presentations, having a podium like the ones they use in the Olympics. It was a wonderful experience.”
Paul Howes is a 75-year-old Langley table tennis player, who proudly represented his home community. These were his ninth Games, having started in Cowichan Valley in 2005 and missing only the Nanaimo Games along the way. When he was growing up, Paul used to hit a ball with his twin brother on their Dad’s table in the basement, but he never took up the game seriously until joining the club at the Langley Seniors Resource Center 10 years ago. His group, which goes by name of Mellow Yellows, fielded a strong contingent that won a total of 48 medals at the Games. Two of those were the gold medals won by Paul in singles and men’s doubles competitions.
“As the home team, we really dominated the competition, but the most important thing was how great it was to see old friends and meet new ones from among the table tennis community,” says Paul. “When you play for many years, you see a lot of the same faces and it is wonderful to spend time catching up. I’ve never seen any animosity between players and we all get along with one another. One advantage we had with so many of us there was a lot of support for one another when we were not playing. I had a great group of friends from Langley cheering me on and, between games, I received some good advice about things I should be doing better and what I should be concentrating on. We had three of our ladies compete for their first time and now they are so excited to play in the 2015 Games in North Vancouver.”
One proud local competitor was 63-year-old Chris Dunne, a dragon boat paddler. After helping form the first dragon boat team for women in Langley more than 10 years ago, Chris joined FORTified, the club’s boat for those 55 and older.
“The first Senior Games that we entered into was in 2009 in Richmond, where the FORTified team won a Gold Medal,” says Chris. “I have been fortunate enough to continue competing in the Senior Games every year since then, paddling not only on a mixed team but sometimes a women’s team as well. That opportunity has amassed me nine medals in those six years – eight gold and one silver.”
Though her most memorable Games were in Comox/Courtney in 2010 when her two daughters got to watch her win two gold medals and in 2013 in Kamloops when her sister watched her compete just days after receiving a knee replacement, Chris does not deny it was special hosting the boats from other communities this time.
“Hosting the Games in our own ‘playground’ of Fort Langley was very exciting,” she says. “Having our home club there cheering us on and wanting to do well not only for ourselves but for them was a real incentive to push us through to the finish line. The fact that we were used to paddling against the current of the river I think was a real advantage for us. With the changing tides, we knew we were in for a tough and long race against the current and would have to save something for our finish.”
Chris also echoes the thoughts of many participants who, despite their years, do not think of themselves as seniors.
“Today’s ‘Seniors’ are much more active than when our parents were at our age. It is an inspiration to all of us to watch 90 year olds competing in such events as track and tennis. Our team keeps hoping that we will all still be able to continue paddling when we are that age. Even to attend the closing night’s Banquet and Dance and see the dance floor crowded with jivers and twisters does not depict what many might think of as seniors. It is like being back in high school with a bunch of 18 year olds. Age is definitely just a state of mind.”
OCTOBER 2014 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE
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