“All’s well,” says a cheerful Barb Roberts, talking about her physical condition leading up to the 55+ Senior’s Games, just two weeks away.
Everything, that is, except the two artificial knees, artificial shoulder, and the rotator cuff surgery she’s recovering from.
And then there was the fall Roberts had about a month ago. That sort of jarred everything, she says, banged her ribs and knees, and sprained her fibula.
“I’m doing very little training at the moment,” she admits. “I’m afraid it’s affected my swimming somewhat.”
But none of that is going to stop this 82-year-old Rossland senior from taking part in the upcoming 55+ Games, being held in Cranbrook from Sept. 11 to 15.
“I’ve tried to keep going,” says Roberts. “I swim all the time, it’s my favourite exercise.
“As one gets older, it’s a sensible exercise. I can fall on dry land, but not in the water!”
Roberts has swum as part of a local seniors aquatic club, the Cocoons, for nearly 30 years.
Like the ‘80s-era movie the club is named after, they find that swimming brings them health, fitness, and not a small degree of happiness.
“There is one lady here on the swim team, she fractured her hip,” says Roberts. “She is determined to go to the Games this year. She is much better, she is not going to give up. She is there with her walker, and she flops into the pool and she swims like crazy.
“I think it is so easy for seniors to back away and then things start to go downhill, that’s why exercise is so important for us. It also keeps the old grey matter going as well.”
The 55+ Games in Cranbrook is a bit of a homecoming for Roberts. She attended the Games the last time they were held there, 25 years ago.
“I can’t remember very much, it’s a long time ago,” she says. “All I can remember is my daughter coming from Calgary to cheer me on.”
You can forgive Roberts if all the Games she’s attended have blurred into one. She’s been to most of them in the last 25 years, competing with the rest of the Cocoons in various swim heats.
“One of the main reasons I particularly want to take part — not only for my own benefit, to heck with the medals — is it gives you a focus, something to strive for,” she says.
The Cocoons are putting together a foursome of octogenarian women to compete in the ‘Combined 300 Year’ relay event.
“I’m 82, we have two that are 83 and one 85,” she says. “I am sure we are not going to win, but that doesn’t matter. We are going to have fun, we’re going to put our ages on our arms just like triathletes, and we’re going to show off.”
At this point, Roberts says she goes there for the fun, and the camaraderie.
“I have made friends from all over the province, since I started going in 1991,” she says. “It is just lovely to meet with them once a year. Sometimes you get emails and Christmas cards.”
While Roberts says competition isn’t the goal of the games, it should also be mentioned she has “two shoe-boxes full” of medals to show for her participation in the last three decades, as well as medals from national-level competition. For a while she held a national record for the 1,500-metre freestyle for her age group.
Roberts thanks the Cocoon’s swim team coach, Lesley Beatson, for her success.
“She up-dated my strokes – they have changed drastically since I learnt to swim 70 years ago!,” says Roberts. “She has a unique understanding of the senior swimmer – analyzing our weaknesses, helping us eliminate drag so swimming becomes easier and less stressful on the older body.
“She also encourages us to just enjoy the zen of swimming – all with a good measure of humour.”
But with her sore shoulder, and limited range of movement, Roberts says this year she’ll be a little more challenged than in the past.
But she’s just happy to be going.
“What most of us look for is a personal best, can we swim faster than the last time?” she says. “That’s my gold medal. Even if you come in twelfth, that is the gold medal.”
“If you had said to me 25 years ago I would still be swimming, I would have said you’re crazy.
“But here I am,” she says.
• See related story, page 7