Be the best you can possibly be no matter what age you are.
These are the words that some Red Deer athletes live by. With such a motto to model their lives by, it’s no wonder Shirley Reaman, 81, and Kit Nielsen, 59, brought home a combined 10 medals from the 2015 55+ Alberta Summer Games.
The Games, hosted every two years in a different town, took place this year in Strathmore. Together the pair ventured south to compete in a number of track and field events for what would be their highest scoring trip to date.
Nielsen, who brought home a gold in 55+ women’s 100m, silver in the 200m, bronze in the discus, silver in long jump and gold in the 4x100m relay, was partaking in her third provincial Summer Games this year and competed in the 2014 55+ Canada Summer Games last summer in Edmonton also.
She explained she went into this year’s competition with the goal to medal in all of her events.
“It was incredible to experience,” said Nielsen on her 2015 55+ Games experience. “My goal was just to medal in all of my events and I came home with a variety of gold, silver and bronze so that was the icing on the cake for me.”
Now in her fifth year of competing, she explains she began competing in the Games the year she turned 55. Not only because she was eligible to compete, rather she felt it was something she wanted to do for herself.
“It started as wanting to get back in shape and in a way evolved to just being able to prove to myself that I could do it.”
While the Games are only one weekend every two years, that doesn’t stop Nielsen from training year-round. She credits her training routine to the well-paved trail system near her house on which she walks, runs, bikes and rollerblades on regularly. In addition she also spends time at the track and field facilities located at Lindsay Thurber High School, where she can often be found practicing her 100m and 200m dashes as well as utilizing the long jump and discus pits.
For Reaman, who together with Nielsen and two other women – one from Lacombe and one from Stettler, the highlight of her 10th year in the Games was watching Nielsen run the fourth leg of the 4x100m relay in which the team won their gold medal.
“I ran first – because I’m the oldest and perhaps the slowest,” explained Reaman with a laugh. “So from across the track I watched as Kit barreled down that last stretch and I remember quite vividly the second she crossed the line and the look of joy on all of my teammates faces.”
The gold medal for the relay was one of five Reaman brought home from Strathmore having taken first in the 80+ discus, 80+ javelin, 80+ shot put, and the 80+ 100m dash.
Having turned 80 last year Reaman is incredibly active – walking around a mile a day and practicing her throwing events on a regular basis.
She began competing in the Games at the age of 68, when her husband was invited to the 2003 55+ Summer Games in Fort McMurray for golf.
“I talked too much, and it was golf so they told me I had to be quiet,” remembers Reaman on her first visit to the Games. “So to amuse myself I started watching some of the women’s events. I watched the throwing events and I thought to myself – I can do that.”
And do that she did. At the following Games Reaman would win her first gold medal.
“I’ve always had strong arms so at the first Games I only competed in the shot put and javelin,” she said, adding she had never been a strong runner and was unsure of her abilities. “I looked around me and couldn’t believe how many other women I was competing against.
“There was this whole mess of people competing against me that first time, but despite the sheer number of people I somehow won a my first gold medal.”
Prior to her first Games and the starting of her training to compete, Reaman – who has been an athlete nearly all of her life – explained she had gotten caught up in, “The whole being a senior thing,” but has since competed every Games and has won a volume of medals in her respective age categories.
“Women especially – don’t ever think you can’t do it just because of your age. People think once they hit the age of 50 it’s over and you can’t do these things anymore.
“But I’m here to say you can and it’s an incredible way to stay active – just strive to do the best you can every day no matter what age you’re at. In simpler words, be the best you can.”
While bids are still in the works for which city will host the 2017 Games, participants are encouraged to consider competing in events such as bocce, golf, bridge, cribbage, cycling, floor curling, horseshoes, military whist, pickleball, pool, slow pitch, swimming, tennis, as well as the track and field events.