Master athletes ready for winter gold

All sports fans cheer athletes who display heart and dedication when competing. Above all, fans love those who play for the love of the game. If not, what’s the point?

Perhaps the competitive spirit burns brightest at the amateur level, where athletes play their sport not for money or recognition, but for fun. It’s this passion for sport that draws 50-plus Canadians to tennis courts, swimming pools and hockey arenas across the land.

It’s also the impetus behind the 2001 International MasterAthlete Games,

  • Held February 2-11, 2001, in Barrie and Orillia, Ontario.

Billed as a festival that “celebrates the enjoyment of competition and excellence,” the MasterAthlete winter games provide a showcase for mature athletes to pit their skills against other mature athletes from around the world.

Athletes ages 30 to 104
While the games are open to women over the age of 30 and men over 35, Games Coordinator Lori Mambella estimates almost half of the participants will be 50-plus. In fact, some categories allow for participation from ages 30 to 104 — so don’t be surprised if you see a few athletes pushing the centurmark.

 “MasterAthlete participants are not high performance athletes or national team members,” says Mambella. “But they are skilled athletes who want to be part of a competitive games scenario.”

The games’ roots can be traced to weekend-long competitions held in towns and cities around the globe, out of which grew the desire to hold larger events with more participants. This led to the formation of an international competition for older athletes who could compete with their peers in a variety of sports.

The 2001 MasterAthlete winter games will see the traditional winter standbys — skiing, curling and hockey — as well as summer favourites such as basketball, triathlon, volleyball, swimming and indoor track and field.

3,000 expected
In all, Mambella expects more than 3,000 athletes to participate, the majority coming from Ontario. However, she says there’s been great interest from the U.S. and even some from Europe and South America, adding a truly international flair to this year’s events.

Ted Roach is one MasterAthlete who epitomizes the spirit of the games. The 75-year-old from Gravenhurst has been swimming competitively since he tuned 50, and hopes to stay in the pool until he’s 100. Along the way, he’s won countless medals at international meets and likes his chances at this year’s MasterAthlete games. If he wins his events, he’ll add to the collection of 130-odd gold medals he’s managed to win throughout the years at Ontario swimming meets alone.

Roach’s specialty is long distance swimming, as well as the 400-metre individual medley and 200-metre butterfly.

“I usually try to get in 12 kilometres a week,” he says, describing his training regimen. Though slowed recently by an eye operation, he’s been training hard to ensure he’s in top form for the winter games. But what keeps him swimming competitively at an age when most are happy to watch younger athletes do it?

Keep in shape, alive
“I swim to keep in shape and to stay alive,” Roach says, laughing. “But I also look forward to the competition which the games offer.”

There’s no questioning Roach’s competitive zeal. Among his many decorations, he was MasterAthlete of the year in 1992 and won gold at the world championships in New Zealand in 1984. Roach swims in the 75-79 age group, where participation isn’t as strong as in other categories. But he isn’t taking competition lightly.

“These aren’t casual swimmers,” he says. “Competition in most age groups will be stiff.”

Top notch ringette
The games will also see top-notch action in the Ringette arena, where Esther Langman, from Oro-Medonte, Ontario, leads her team into action. Ringette is similar to hockey in terms of rules, speed and fitness, but it demands much more in the way of teamwork, a concept that readily lends itself to the spirit of the MasterAthlete games.

“It’s a game based primarily on team play,” says the veteran of 25 years of ringette competition. “In other sports, such as hockey, you can have one or two really good players on a team and be successful. But you won’t get anywhere in ringette that way.”

Langman, who plays defence for her team, stays in shape for this demanding sport by rollerblading around town.

“In a typical ringette game, we generally play two-minute shifts,” she says. “And there’s a lot of spinning and twisting and turning around — you have to be in good shape.”

Although the team is looking good right now (its won the last three Ontario ringette championships), like any athlete, Langman is unwilling to make any bold predictions.

“Competition will be strong, especially in our group,” she says. The women on the other teams should be up to scratch themselves — many began playing the sport when it was first introduced in the 1960s.

Beyond these games, Langman hopes to continue playing ringette as long as she can stay in shape and as long as there are women willing to play. The latter shouldn’t be a problem.

“The sport is in healthy shape, with more and more older ladies playing as they age,” she says.
Fun and sport. Langman’s sentiment captures the essence of the MasterAthlete games — athletes playing for the thrill of competition and the love of their sport. The pros could learn a lot from them.    
2001 MasterAthlete Games

  • Date: Feb. 2-11, 2001
  • Location: Events will be held in Barrie and Orillia, Ont.
  • Events: Alpine skiing, badminton, basketball, broomball, cross country skiing, curling, hockey, jiu jitsu, ringette, swimming, tennis, track and field, triathlon, volleyball, weightlifting.
  • Registration closes Dec. 1, 2000.
  • To volunteer at the games, contact:

2001 International MasterAthlete Winter Games
c/o The City of Barrie, Box 400 Barrie, Ont. L4M 4T5
Tel: (705) 739-4220 ext. 4440
1-877-371-2001 (North America)
Fax: (705) 739-4288
Email: [email protected]