Big Country athletes from Cochrane and surrounding areas brought home 72 medals from the Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games in Edmonton April 7 to 11.
Approximately 150 athletes from the area, also known as Zone 2 — spanning westward from Banff to the Saskatchewan border — were in attendance for the games after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus.
"We had a lot of make-up to do," said Cochranite Douglas Campbell, director of the Big Country Senior Sports Society. "But we pulled it off this year without any significant COVID complications."
They pulled it off in spades, with some teams winning gold medals to qualify for a national competition happening in Kamloops, B.C. from Aug. 23 to 26.
Among them, the team of Jim Anderson, Herb Smith, Bob Jennings and Gary Hawkes won gold in men's curling, and the team of Marcia Wilson, Wendy Davis, Myrna Fink, Sharon Barnden and Laurie MacKenzie won the gold medal in bowling.
Monique Mackenzie won the bronze medal in scratch bowling and the team of Norma Columbus, George Neufeld, Heather Craig and Doug Campbell won the bronze medal in men's curling.
With the exception of Jennings, Columbus and Neufeld, who are from Bearspaw, Canmore and Airdrie, respectively — all of the above athletes are from Cochrane.
A few of the other events on display included badminton, darts, euchre, hockey, pickleball and scrabble.
"A lot of people also don't realize that 55 Plus includes arts and crafts and creative writing," said Campbell. "In arts, we have previously won two golds, one silver and two bronze in creative writing."
The event is about more than athletic abilities, he added.
"We're not looking for Tiger Woods," said Campbell. "We're looking to get people off the couch to have some fun."
Campbell admits he is not the best golfer, but he and his teammate Karl Gibby — also from Cochrane — have qualified to play golf in the 55 Plus Summer Games happening in Peace River June 16 to 19.
In fairness of all sporting events, teams of similar age and ability are pit against one another. Those who are older in age swing from a tee box that is closer to the golf green, for example.
The pair of Gibby and Campbell have also qualified for lawn bowling at nationals, which incorporates both summer and winter events.
While local attendance for this year's events has been good thus far, Campbell said he hopes to grow the Over 55 roster even further.
"We have 50 members in Cochrane and I don't think there's any excuse for us not having 200," said Campbell. "My sales pitch is that it's 30 bucks for 30 sports, and it's lots of fun."
To learn more about Alberta 55 Plus Zone 2 qualifiers and opportunities to sign up, visit alberta55plus.ca/zones/zone-2/