PHOTOGRAPHY NAOMI HARRIS
No matter where they finished, competitors in last year’s Biennial Canada 55+ Games in Cape Breton, N.S., tell Jayne MacAulay they all feel like winners.
Toss and Turn
Tom Parlee (above), 66, of Whitehorse, bagged three silver medals (discus, shot put and long jump) and two bronze (javelin and the 4 x 100-metre relay) and proudly carried Team Yukon’s flag at the Games’ ceremonies. A director for the next Canada 55+ Games in 2014, he wants people 55 and over to get involved in physical activities. Older competitors really impress him. “There are people in their 80s still competing in track,” he says. “Our oldest Team Yukon competitor is 87.”
Having fun makes you enthusiastic and lively, Helly Visser (left), 79, says, and the Calgary runner who won gold in 400-, 800- and 1,500-metre races clearly has fun. She’s collected records as a master athlete since she began running at age 50 and has co-developed Natural Posture Running, a technique to increase efficiency, reduce injuries and teach good form. “Running transforms you,” Visser says. “It makes you mentally and physically strong and confident. It’s an adventure.” Quite a contrast from the 70-year-old friend who told Visser she felt too old to get out there and run.
Watching one-mile races across the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge over Halifax Harbour in 2009, June Marsden (now 77) decided, “I can do that.” The avid hiker – a member of the Dartmouth Volksmarch Club, an international fitness walking club – had to run-walk-run her first race but just kept going. Now she drives herself to races around Nova Scotia, won a bronze medal in the 10K run at the 2012 Canada 55+ Games and plans to compete provincially this year to qualify for the 2014 Games.
Pass This On
Nova Scotia’s gold medal-winning 4 x 100-metre relay team (for women 55-plus) had only figured out who ran when and passed the baton a few times before they raced. “Running makes me feel alive,” Coline MacEachern (No. 6), 56, of Port Hood says. She’s been at it since high school, but Anne Murray (with baton), 59, from New Midas, only started two years ago when high blood pressure meant an unequivocal lifestyle change – or medication. First to run, Murray had her best race yet. Georgie Gillis (second from left), 67, finished her 31st marathon in Athens, Greece, last fall. She’d taken up running at age 39, started a learn-to-run group three years ago in her hometown, Inverness, and a walking program last year. Alice Patrick (No. 14), 61, of Lunenburg, winner of seven gold medals at the Games, anchored the relay. Racing on a provincial team for the first time and meeting people from across Canada was a joy, she says.
Order in the Court
Anne Cholod (with ball), 83, and fellow tennis club member Lester Hunt (right), 77, both of Saskatoon., aced a gold medal for the mixed doubles over 75 tennis match. Players like Pamela Marzolini (second from left), 79, of Toronto, who with Cobourg, Ont.’s Ron Sargent (right), 78, won the silver, motivated Cholod (Marzolini who’d had a hip replacement in 2000). “It encourages you to keep doing what you love,” Cholod says. Taking part in the Games has been “exhilarating and challenging – all those things you miss as you get older. You’re revitalized by it,” Marzolini says.
Fun and Games
Running through the gates of Fortress Louisbourg to the sound of a drummer was a thrill of a lifetime,” Gail Miller-Craigen (near right), 67, of Marsh Lake, YK recalls. She and neighbour Darlene Dimsdale (centre), 61, train in the rough terrain around Marsh Lake, 60 kilometres from Whitehorse.
“My training partners are [black] bears,” Dimsdale only partly jokes. This 5K race was the final event for them and Jean Healey (far right), 63, of Saskatoon. Miller-Craigen had won her 10K cycling event; Dimsdale and Healey had run the 1,500-metre and tied for silver in the 3,000-metre race. Healey also won golds in shot put and discus throws.
Derald Balson, 84, of Sudbury, Ont., faced multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1972 – and the end of his old-timer hockey fun. At 44, the father of five could have been in a wheelchair by age 49. But Balson decided he could swim. So 40 years on, in spite of double bypass cardiac surgery in 1987, he walks with a walker and still swims – winning two gold medals by predicting his times in the 100M and 200M (the swimmer closest to his predicted time wins). “I’ll be there but I’ll be 86 then,” he told organizers of the 2014 Games. The response? “There’s no [age] limit on the top – just on the bottom.”
Arthritis plagued Dorothy Sudnik (far right), 85, of Hythe, Alta., since a teen. But for swimming, she might not be walking, she says. In 1987, her sister, Juanita Knight (near right), 91, of Valleyview, Alta., a swimming teacher and lifeguard for years, suggested swimming. She coaxed Sudnik to enter senior games. Swimming helps health, Knight says. “So many much younger than me can’t even do their own housework.” She claimed gold in 50M backstroke and 50M freestyle and silver in the 100M backstroke. Sudnik took home the gold in the latter, silvers in the 50M backstroke and 50M freestyle races.