Let the games begin in Vernon

From high jump to darts the B.C. 55 + Games are underway in Vernon.

The competition is fierce yet fun as the province’s most advanced athletes are in town for the BC 55+ Games.

It’s been 30 years since Vernon hosted the games and this time it’s a lot bigger with more athletes and events. The 1987 Games had a showing of 600 athletes, compared to 3,600 this year, with far fewer events, while the 30th Games includes 27 different sports.

“I remember them, I remember when they came,” said Diana Williamson, director for the Greater Vernon Games. “It’s back to where it all began 30 years ago, so it’s pretty exciting.”

The Okanagan-Similkameen, zone five, represents 806 athletes, so there’s a strong showing locally.

While many of those competing are in their early senior years, there are many who are proving that age doesn’t have to slow you down.

Among the oldest competitors are 97-year-old Bill Falconer of Kamloops, who is competing in track and field. There’s also 95-year-olds playing cribbage, floor curling and even equestrian. Swimming includes a couple 93-year-olds as well as Vernon’s own Mira Grypink, 85, who competed in the Games 30 years ago and is back at it again this year, along with her daughters Jacquie and Monique.

Sherrie McGraw, a distance runner from the Lower Mainland, says she loves the Games and it’s her second time as a competitor.

“I love running in general so this kind f puts another spin on it,” she said. “I prefer to do half-marathons, I have more time to play the field a little more, this is pretty intense.”

Organizer and table tennis player John Neilson says there are 106 players in his sport from all over the province.

“We have a few from Vernon, about four of us playing, and then there is a large number from the coast coming up and they are very good,” explained Neilson. “We actually don’t have a lot of the young ones here, the biggest age groups are over 70.”

And of course it wouldn’t be the senior games without darts.

Hedley McMullan has been playing darts since the 1990s, as it was a family affair.

“People say, ‘oh you’re going to the senior games?’” said McMullan. “Well, don’t forget there is a lot of good dart players in the senior games because we all played against each other coming up to get to be a senior, and now we are all seniors they are all still there, and they are still good players.”

The closing ceremonies are slated for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Vernon Recreation Complex.