Patti Kagawa entered the BC Seniors Game on a whim — she wanted a summer holiday the Koontenays. To her surprise, she came home with a fist full of medals.
The 55-year-old Langford resident and recreational athlete signed up for the south Island swim team to be part of the games held in Trail, Castlegar and Nelson, as a participant rather than a spectator. Her husband is on the Juan de Fuca soccer team and was out to help defend their title.
Kagawa was surprised to be accepted on the south Island team without qualifying meets.
“I’ve swam at Thetis lake quite a bit, but never on an organized masters swim team,” she said. “The group from the south Island are very serious. They swim hard. They were very competitive when they were younger. They like to keep that edge.”
Swimming events were short — between 25 and 100 metre races. Kagawa picked up four golds and two silvers in her 55 to 59 age group. She shrugs off the awards — it was more interesting to meet inspiring people and make new friends.
“It was amazing seeing women in their 80s and even 90s swimming competitively,” Kagawa said. “Seniors games works to keep people active. You’re not out to get gold medals, it’s about keeping active.”
She said seeing an 85-year-old athletes compete in shotput or at golfing events shows people can be active for a long time. The games have wide latitude for people with limited mobility, with sports of high intensity such as track and field, to minimal physical output, such as card games.
“There are tons of sports and games,” she said. “You just have to find your sport, something you enjoy doing.”
Kagawa is already a keen example of someone not letting stereotypes of age get in the way. In 2008 she cycled across Canada and then wrote a book about it called From Sea to Shining Sea. She wanted to prove that kind of adventuring isn’t just for young adults.
“I was trying to inspire people to say you don’t have to be young to do this,” she said. “When you’re young you have no money, but when you’re older you don’t think you can do it. But you just have to take your time as you get older. You have to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.”
For more on the BC Senior Games see www.bcseniorsgames.org. The 2012 games are in Burnaby.