Our friend Jean and many more dedicated athletes and non-athletes, participate in the BC Senior Games, which has been an annual event since 1988. The location varies each year from north to south and east to west in this fair province. This year, Kamloops was the host, the scene of bustling activity Aug. 20 – 24 as some 3,800 participants, aged 55 and older, descended on the city for activities and sports from “archery to whist.” Several years ago, on learning about this wonderful opportunity, I had told cyclist Jean, “I can swim.” But with my hip deteriorating painfully and healing slowly after miraculous replacement surgery, it has taken all this time for me to experience first hand the fun of being part of the picture.
Training to swim competitively in a place with no pools was a major challenge. I joined friend and fellow Girl Guider Barb of Barriere at only a couple of the team’s weekly hour-long swims with helpful hints and challenges from the lifeguards at the YM/YWCA. When possible, I swam a kilometre or so when we were near a pool. Having actually signed up in April, and been timed for my chosen events, some training had to happen. Of course, this would be the spring for lots of travels, so I walked, hiked, cycled when I could. Happily, Dutch Lake melted and warmed up; even better, friend Sandra with her paddler was willing to accompany me patiently as I slowly stroked from beach or boat launch across the lake.
The date arrived, as they invariably do, for us to meet Barb and husband Carman at the Kamloops Interior Savings Centre to sign in. Done.
“You’ll need a red shirt for the parade during opening ceremonies,” Jean and Barb told me. “Red and yellow are the colours for Zone 8 which takes in Salmon Arm, Merritt, Cache Creek, us, and all points in between.”
Got it, and chatted with Sandra, on duty sporting her maroon Volunteer T-shirt.
For the opening ceremonies, teams wearing their respective colours, and dragon boaters carrying oars, lined up outside the Tournament Capital Centre (TCC) at Thompson Rivers University (TRU). As host city, a “river of red” marched in at the end of the line. Speeches and entertainment followed, with Nancy Greene Raine running in with the torch to ignite the flame.
Easy part over, I’m here to swim! Eighteen members constituted Zone 8’s team; many met for the first time and, like me, were participating for the first time. Needless to say, warm bonds were forged over the next three days. Perhaps it was in 1958 that I last swam competitively, but all, first-timers or not, experienced butterflies as their races began. We were placed in heats according to those times submitted much earlier – a comforting arrangement. The oldest competitor was a 93-year-old woman and she swam almost every race I did, and that included 400 and 800 m freestyle. Amazing lady.… Family and friends, including John and Carman, Sandra and Linda (from Kamloops) cheered and encouraged from the bleachers above TRU’s pool. Gold, silver and bronze medals were handed out with great fan-fare to winners in each age group. In each of my five swims, I experienced some small success – that I did not need a medal for! Meantime, Jean was cycling, Carol was riding her horse, others from Clearwater were golfing and more. It really was an amazing affair to take part in.
Special events were arranged for participants including an efficiently-run banquet – literally for thousands, with dancing and more for the fun of it. A closing ceremony followed the completion of all events. “I am so glad you talked me into this, Jean!”