Vancouver Island North (Zone 2) is sending 451 participants, along with 31 supporters, to the 55+ BC Games next month in Kelowna. A total of 106 participants from the Comox Valley will take part in the multi-sport event that runs from Sept. 10-14.
“It’s the second largest (Zone 2) contingent,” said Courtenay resident Paul Kingan, vice-president of the BC Seniors Games Society. “The only time it was larger was when the Games were held here back in 2010.”
Of the roughly 4,100 participants expected at this year’s Games, nearly 500 have registered for dragon boating and for ice hockey. Around 400 athletes will compete in pickleball — “the fastest growing sport in North America,” Kingan says — while soccer has at least 300 participants.
New sports include triathlon, which has 55 entrants, and sturling, which which will have 15 teams competing. The latter is curling with a stick, enabling those with physical challenges that hamper participation in regular curling. Teams are comprised of two players instead of four.
“Literally it’s a stick handle that you attach to the handle of the curling rock,” Kingan said. “You walk out to the hog line and release it that way. For sturling, there is no sweeping.”
Kingan said ladies hockey — a new sport last year at the Kimberley/Cranbrook Games — is surprisingly popular with seven or eight teams entered, including a squad from Zone 2.
There’s also a Zone 2 women’s soccer team, called Island Force, comprised of players from Nanaimo and the Comox Valley. This year, there will be four teams — a step up from the Vernon Games in 2017 when women’s soccer was introduced.
The mission of the BC Seniors Games Society is to improve the health, lifestyle and image of the province’s 55-plus population.
“It’s not all about winning medals,” Kingan said. “It’s the camaraderie. When you’re at the Games, you make friends, you see friends that you met last year…You get to present a 95-year-old with a medal, and you see the beam on their face. That’s the satisfaction that I get.”
Comox Valley athletes represent 25 per cent of the Zone 2 team, which includes Nanaimo, Tofino, Powell River and Bella Coola.
“It’s exciting to see so many people active and engaged in our riding,” said North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, who serves as Seniors’ Critic for the NDP. “As much as I fight for vulnerable seniors, I’m incredibly proud of the seniors who are so active in our communities. I can’t say enough. They’re active in these ways, but also in their volunteering and their support of the community.”
This year’s event is the biggest in the history of the 55+ BC Games, formerly called the BC Seniors Games. It’s expected to generate $3.5- to 4-million for Kelowna.
The 2020 Games are in Richmond. Victoria is the host city in 2021, and Abbotsford in 2022.