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â€œWhere can I plug in my iPod?â€
September 16, 2012
VANCOUVER, BC, Sep 16, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Are you of the unfortunate opinion that aging is hell?
Then volunteer at your province’s annual Seniors Games; you’re bound to gain a whole new perspective. This multi-sport event, hosted by a different provincial community each year, is open to participants aged 55 and older. As a result of my own recent involvement, I’m now of the belief that 90 is the new 70.
The 25th BC Seniors’ Games took place Aug 21 – 25 in Burnaby. With the three day swimming competition held at my teenagers’ swim club’s home pool I felt comfortable volunteering as the announcer for the meet. My role was to ensure the event ran smoothly via timely announcements delivered with the aid of a mike and carefully placed speakers.
Initially, things appeared similar to the usual meets. The starting blocks were bolted in place and the timers’ chairs were snuggly nudged along the edge of the bulkhead. However, as the first of the 150 swimmers began discarding their thick robes to gingerly enter the water I confess it was a struggle to not compare them to the youthful swimmers I’m so used to seeing. Grabbing a coffee, I settled down to endure a quiet, sleepy warmup.
My first inkling that things could be a tad different than expected was an insistent query by the tanned, wiry swimmer brandishing a swim bag. ‘Where can I plug in my iPod?’ Moments later Beyonce’s soaring voice rang out over the outdoor pool. As ‘Single Ladies’ pulsed through the dawn, the athletes noticeably picked up their tempo and skimmed effortlessly through the water. Our self-appointed DJ offhandedly informed me he was a 68-year-old cycling coach and these were the warmup tunes for his clients.
Warmups over, participants clambered out of the pool. What a difference to the ‘early-morning challenged’ swimmers I usually see. These folks were so alive as they sought last minute advice from their (much younger) coaches. Such enthusiasm is infectious and you could sense the entire mood shift amongst the volunteers on the pool deck.
Of course, we had the usual opening day glitches. The first race, a 400-metre freestyle, had to be restarted half way through the first heat. Someone forgot to plug in the time clock. Undaunted, the athletes cheerfully swam back to the blocks to patiently await a race restart. Consulting the meet program for salient facts with which to entertain my listening audience, I unearthed a remarkable tidbit. The swimmer in lane eight . . . was . . . 92! It was with considerable awe that we watched him confidently complete the distance in a respectable 15 minutes.
A further perusal of the program revealed the majority of registered swimmers were in their 70′s. However, at least one observer was less than impressed. Annie, a proficient swimmer in her own right, was standing at my side for all seven heats of that first race. Contemplating the pace of the various heats, she tugged on my sleeve and whispered “Are they still doing warmups?’ Forgive her. She’s just eight years old.
As the meet progressed, personalities emerged. One 84-year-old gal chose to swim the 50 metre freestyle race on her terms. No blocks for her. She asked to be lowered into the water and then swam the entire race with her head out of the water. With the others in her heat already finished she cruised the last 15 metres with bone dry hair, waving regally to the now cheering crowd.
After six years of announcing, I assumed there wasn’t much left for me to learn. Big mistake. Upon completion of the first break I summoned back the volunteers with my usual ‘Would all timers please report to your seats on the bulkhead.’ Within minutes a handful of smiling gray haired individuals approached my table on an urgent mission. Apparently the message came across as ‘Would Alzheimer’s please report . . .’ Subsequent announcements were appropriately amended.
My most important observation over those three remarkable days was that age doesn’t diminish the importance of a win. I shall never forget the joy of 88-year-old Edna as she leapt onto the podium to receive her second gold medal of the meet. Nor shall I forget the delight with which other medalists posed for photographs; smiling grandchildren at their sides. What remarkable role models for us all.
So remember, when your back complains as you tie up your shoes, think twice. There’s at least one 92 year old in the Fraser Valley who is working out in the pool.
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