Yukoners compete with style and grace in Canada 55+ Games
“Be classy … Be flexible!”
ALL CLASS – Team Yukon members practice thier “Be Classy; Be Flexible” exercise. Team Yukon collected 76 medals at the Games, including 39 gold. Photo courtesy of TEAM YUKON
“Be classy … Be flexible!”
Those were the directions given to members of Team Yukon.
The night before the Canada 55 + Games started, the 90 members of the Yukon contingent gathered in the hospitality room of our Sydney, Nova Scotia hotel.
After explaining various logistics, one of our chefs de mission gave us a stretching exercise to demonstrate being “classy and flexible.”
It was good advice.
Over the next four days, at every sports venue there were challenges that had to be overcome with grace and a smile.
The Canada 55+ Games are held every two years in a different location in Canada.
Each host society that bids for the Games is doing it for the first time. They rely on volunteers, mostly seniors, to make it happen.
This year’s games were hosted in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality of Nova Scotia, an area of greater Sydney.
The host society only bid on the Games last year so they did not have much time to prepare.
The Yukon ElderActive Recreation Association (ERA) hosted the Games in Whitehorse in 2004 so Team Yukon knows how much work is involved in hosting.
We suspected there would some glitches in this year’s games so we prepared ourselves to be “classy and flexible!”
When Team Yukon’s director on the Games organizing committee reviewed the transportation plans for shuttling participants to venues spread over a 75-kilometre radius, he saw problems.
The schedule meant some people would be on school buses for two hours getting to their competitions.
Bill Simpson recommended some adjustments to improve the plans for everyone.
Then he rented a half dozen vans for older Team Yukon participants.
“We worked hard to raise money for the Games,” says Simpson. “We needed to be flexible and spend some of that money to make it enjoyable for everyone.”
There were rumours that the opening ceremonies were going to be Woodstock re-visited. The ceremonies were to be held on a field that didn’t even exist according to Google Earth.
It was a former tar pond that had undergone cleaning and reclamation. But it only received a layer of sod three weeks ago. The night before the opening ceremonies, it poured rain. We all anticipated soggy sod.
Apparently, sod settles quickly in Cape Breton. The field was great; there was no mud to muck up our gold team uniforms; and the only “classy” behaviour required was patience during the speeches of various politicians.
Some of Team Yukon had an extended wait for a shuttle bus back to the hotel but they used the time to distribute flags and pins to competitors from across the country.
Later that day at the 10-km road race in Louisburg, there were a few glitches.
The bibs for the runners and the equipment for the officials didn’t show up, delaying the race start by nearly an hour. Five Yukoners were competing but nearly twenty had turned up to cheer on the racers.
It was supper time and the race delay meant we were all hungry. “Be flexible.”
Our chef de mission drove down the road to a café and bought enough sandwiches
and drinks to stave off the hunger pangs.
Instant picnic in a country field near the ocean with the setting sun! “Pretty classy!”
The cheering squad hung in for another hour and sang the Team Yukon song as the racers crossed the finish line.
On the second morning of competition, the power was cut throughout the Cape Breton Regional Municipality due to a blown transformer.
Yukoners were eating breakfast when the lights went out shrugged and said the power outage made them feel at home.
Rob Sutherland and Susanna Edwards had a romantic moment in the hotel elevator when the power went out. “We were just getting started when the emergency power cut in and the elevator doors opened,” said a disappointed Sutherland.
Later that evening another Yukon couple were caught in a stuck elevator for over half an hour.
They were confined with three women from Prince Edward Island, Scrabble players. When the hotel’s maintenance man told them over the emergency telephone that he was stumped and didn’t know how to fix the elevator, the Yukon’s muscle bound shot-putter Tom Parlee decided to “make like James Bond!”
Parlee wedged his fingers in the crack of the elevator doors, grimaced for effect and pried the doors open. The weary victims cheered, stepped up half metre to the fourth floor, thanked Tom and sauntered off to their own rooms.
“That’s not how it ends for James Bond,” Tom lamented.
Despite a strong Italian community in Cape Breton, there is not a tradition of playing bocce.
The bocce players from Team Yukon found the young volunteer officials needed basic pointers on how the game is played and scored. All the players took turns officiating when they weren’t playing.
Doug Lorenzen, a Team Yukon bocce player says the playing field wasn’t level.
“The field had a definite slope as well as lumps and bumps. But that played to our advantage. The Alberta and Ontario teams are used to perfect fields but we’re used to a few imperfections. We pointed out everyone has to play on the same field so it really was a ‘level’ playing field.”
The 25 degree sunshine created a challenge for the curlers.
Bob Walker, a first time Games participant, says it was just about as hot inside the curling rink.
“The stones were dripping wet, covered in sweat.
It took half the game to figure out how to throw rocks properly but we managed to pull off a tie. But you couldn’t blame the organizers for the weather and mostly we were just having fun.”
The umpire at the slo-pitch venue was upset that he didn’t have a mat for defining the strike zone.
According to the rules, the mat was required at home plate. The ump was reluctant to start the game without a mat so he went to his car and pulled out the floor mats and laid them down on the field.
He turned to Team Yukon’s ball players and asked “Is that OK?” They chorused back “Sure, we’re flexible; we’re from the Yukon!”
The “Be classy; Be flexible” motto really made a difference in the attitude of Team Yukon.
Holly Cowman says occasionally there was grumbling about the glitches at the various venues. “But our team just didn’t engage in that. We focused on the positive – the volunteers, the generosity of Cape Bretoners, the effort everyone was making and the fun we were having just being active and competing. That’s what made the Games a success!”
Exclusive to the Whitehorse Star, submitted by Team Yukon.