A Tribute

Today I must give a shout-out to a group of seniors. Technically I am supposed to call them “55+’ers”; definitely not supposed to call them “old geezers”. But it really doesn’t matter what you label these people, the key is you had better be respectful to their faces. On Friday, near mid-day this group of vigorous folk, accomplished something on Kalamalka Lake that they had never done before. They won a medal, a gold medal. Yes, they won the “C” Divison of the Women’s Dragon Boat Championships at the BC 55+ Games (formerly known as the BC Seniors Games). This was the 30th anniversary of these Games so it was fitting that the Penticton Golden Dragons managed a time of approximately 2:30 to defeat the other two finalists by four [4] and eight [8] seconds respectively in the final heat. To fully appreciate this, one of the mixed team championships was decided by 5/100th’s of a second!! They had not had a particularly auspicious Games to that point, coming in third in each of their preliminary heats. In fact, in the semi-final morning race their time was nothing to write home about. Nevertheless when they went out for the final their spirits were undaunted — one thing, never underestimate the competitiveness of Seniors. Remember, they’ve all been through life, had careers, dealt with adversities a great deal more significant than a sporting event. It was a 500 metre course, on a strange diagonal (due to the shoreline being anything but straight and therefore not an easy thing to use as a guide when paddling). The starting line was a long way from the beach where all the teams had their tents (which were much close to the finish line), so it was not easy to tell what kind of start each team managed. The finish line itself was also somewhat difficult to read — thankfully, the officials were using lasers to pinpoint the teams crossing the exact distance. There were two buoys to go between but they were only an approximate indication of the finish line so even standing on the wharf was not sufficient to gain a precise assessment who the winners might be. Timing is everything in dragon-boating. It’s not enough to have strong paddlers. It certainly isn’t enough to have simply interested participants. People must be committed to learning to stroke/paddle in time (it should like like a trireme in the movie Cleopatra). The Golden Dragons practice twice a week from early May onward and their coach stresses this continually. They had just competed in the Penticton Festival the weekend before and there were only 24 women (tired or not) available for the BC Games. Furthermore, their coach, for medical reasons had to recuse himself from the weekend — so they had an interim coach with whom they’d never worked. However they were not to be denied. They paddled hard from the beginning with excellent timing, never let up and crossed the finish line with the 2nd and 3rd place boats trying desperately to catch them. But they had managed to take five [5] seconds off their morning’s run. As they began to paddle towards the beach to unload, one of the judges in the marshalling boat mentioned that it was official — they had won. Standing on the pier, it was neat to watch this group raise their paddles in the air and whoop and holler, like a group of elementary school volleyball players on winning the city championship for the first time. They were ecstatic as well as their supporters on shore. In their excitement we weren’t sure whether they might tip the dragon boat over. Arriving at the disembarking spot the smiles were huge and the laughter contagious. For a group constantly coming in last and used to acknowledging others as the victors, this moment was special. Even the other finalists quickly realized how unique this moment was and they too applauded the Penticton Golden Dragons. It was a moment that I was glad I was there to witness. I just wish our Grandkids could have been there to witness their Grand’mere, who’d been battling a serious pneumonia for a couple of weeks, beaming and still cheering, as she got out of the boat. Later at the closing ceremonies for the Dragon Boat Races the team was presented with their gold medals. No one took theirs off at all but wore them to their cars and perhaps all the way home. I know one did. All the way to Gray Monk winery (and boy is that place worth a visit — hadn’t been there in at least ten years and it is magnificent — can sure see why Andrew Peller wanted to add it to their collection of fine wineries). Anyway, everyone at the winery and it’s restaurant were suitably impressed by the medal. And it stayed on all the way to Penticton where it will proudly hang alongside the lady’s paddle in her own office for all who visit to see and admire. My respect for these type of events has just gone up a few notches. The joy they can bring to ordinary people is truly amazing. Congratulations to the Games Committee, its many hundreds of volunteers and its myriad of sponsors as well as to the competitors themselves. Just watching these seniors compete made me feel younger again. But most of all I want to pay tribute to the Pentiction Golden Dragons Women’s Team 2017 Edition — that gold medal performance was priceless. I know, because the glow from it still fills the little Craftsman Cottage by the Creek that is our home… g.w.