When I went to the 55+ B.C. Games last year in Kelowna, we all knew there would be more people participating just because of its physical location.
Cranbook saw about 2,500 participants at the games in 2018. In 2019, Kelowna saw more than 4,200 and it was awesome.
I compete in the throwing events in the track and field category and it's so much fun.
What I find so interesting is all the different personalities you come to know very quickly. There are some truly inspiring people out there, just doing the best they can.
It's amazing what people have to overcome, endure, live through to get there.
Here are just a few examples.
In the women's 55 to 59 year category, there was Kathy, a new competitor in the mix this year. She shared with me that in order to practice before the event she found a rock she thought might be what a shot put would be like and threw that at her farm to practice. She then found a flat rock she thought was like a discus and threw that too.
She came to the games not ever having been in a throwing circle but she thought she'd try it. Last year, she threw darts at the 55+ B.C. Games in Cranbrook and came fourth.
The first contest for us throwing ladies is the javelin. It's my weakest event. I just don't have that snap that you need to send that thing flying. Kathy and I continued to chat and she told me that when she was 22 years old she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She showed me her hands. There were telltale signs. When she was in her 40s she was confined to a wheelchair and she looked around one day and said 'no this is not going to be my life' and there she was, standing beside me at 56 years old throwing that javelin farther than I ever could.
It was the first time she had ever thrown it.
And yes, she beat me and yes, I was so very happy for her.
She couldn't believe how friendly most of the competitors were during the competition. She chatted with most everyone and was offered tips and encouragement from her fellow competitors throughout the entire four-day competition.
There was a beautiful redheaded woman who was actually taller than me. At 5 foot 9, that doesn't happen very often so she caught my attention. I am a people watcher after all.
Laurel is a power walker and she throws things, too. She would do her race walk and then stride over to throw her shot put or hammer and we got to chatting. Standing tall and proud, Laurel shared with me that she has lupus, a debilitating disease that she is determined to manage with deliberate lifestyle choices, including walking like the most graceful princess and throwing things like the queen she is. I told her she was amazing to watch before she told me about the disease she lives with every day and then I had to tell her she was simply incredible as we shared a hug after she shared all that with me.
There are some serious competitors and we know to leave them in peace during the competition because they were not recreational competitors like me. They were there to make their mark and they needed to focus to do it and we had to respect that.
That brings me to Nancy. She told me she spent the last two years learning how to throw the hammer. And she throws it like an Olympian. I'm not exaggerating. She got coached by a former Olympic hammer thrower. So the hammer is a 3 kilo metal ball on a long wire attached to a metal handle and us newbies wing it over our heads a couple of times and let it go over our shoulder. It's very therapeutic and a heckova lotta fun.
So Nancy has competed in the hammer at other Masters events and when she got in the circle at the 55+ B.C. Games she did five turns like a champ and let that hammer go. It flew threw the air and all of us girls started clapping, cheering, yelling, screaming before it even landed. We didn't know how far it went but it went farther than any of the rest of us could throw it. When she came out of the cage - so cool, right? - we rushed over to shake her hand, pat her on the back, hug her and tell her what an amazing thing she just did. She said 'What are you doing? I'm not used to this.'
I said 'What? You're not used to people congratulating you and supporting you when you've done something amazing?' And she said 'no, people don't even talk to me at other competitions.' I told her that she was at the wrong competitions then and she was where she belonged - at the 55+ B.C. Games.
I know she'll be back.
Oh, I forgot to say she not only broke the hammer throw record that was 28 metres, she shattered it. She threw it 36.25 metres. Oh, and I forgot to mention the lady, Yvonne, who held the record before Nancy broke it was right there with us, competing in the 65 to 69 year category and got to watch Nancy break it and handled it with the best kind of sportsmanship and hugged her to congratulate her. Yup, I got to introduce them to each other. It was so cool.
So, as you can see the games are for everyone who wants to join in the fun - beginners like Kathy, recreational participants like me and Laurel and those who really bring it like Nancy. There's more than 30 different activities, everything from duplicate bridge, to darts, to dragon boating, to my favourite, track and field. There's nothing like joining a community of like-minded people because as you can well imagine it's kind of hard to start a chat with someone when you say 'so you know what's interesting about the hammer throw?'
So when I go to the games I feel like I've found my people.
The 55+ BC Games event has been canceled this year but we're hoping to still get some practices in so we can keep up our skills and perhaps even develop some new ones. Keep a look out for us throwers at Masich Place when it finally reopens later in the summer and drop in if you're interested in learning something new - it's never too late, you know! We're all pretty new at these throws and we'll be sure to support each other as we muddle through together.