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Determined Yukoner switches events to make Canada 55+ Games

Whitehorse's Dave Brekke isn't opposed to trying new things.

Whitehorse’s Dave Brekke isn’t opposed to trying new things.

The 75-year-old is so determined to participate at the 2014 Canada 55+ Games this month, after his first three choices of sports fell through, Brekke decided to try his hand at something new.

Brekke has taken up the card game whist to secure a spot on Team Yukon at the Games later this month in Strathcona County, outside Edmonton.

Brekke’s first choice was hockey, which he played in 2004 when Whitehorse hosted the Games.

“I always wanted to play hockey and that was my first choice this year, but there wasn’t a hockey team - not enough players,” said Brekke. “I think 2004 was the only time we (Yukon) competed in hockey.”

Brekke’s second choice was slo-pitch softball. But that filled up fast and he struck out.

“My second choice was ball, but I was told that I didn’t have too much chance to get on the ball team because they give the first choices to everybody first.”

Brekke was then approached by a friend about partnering up in badminton. However, a severe hockey injury took badminton off the table as well.

“I played badminton as a kid,” said Brekke. “I went to badminton several times and the club was very helpful trying to help me pick up my game and so on.

“And then I fell at hockey - just fell - and broke my upper femur and got a hip replacement this spring. So then I couldn’t play badminton anymore.”

Running out of options, Brekke decided to learn whist and give that a shot. Whist is a card game similar to bridge, played by four people at a time in teams of two.

Brekke is teaming up with Teslin’s Irene Mahoney. At 89 years old, Mahoney is the oldest on the team and has competed at three previous 55+ Games, once in Scrabble and twice in whist.

“Irene had a problem. She wanted to play whist - that was her first choice - but there wasn’t a whist partner for her,” said Brekke. “So the organization found Irene for me ... and that’s how we came together. She was willing to take a partner in whist rather than play Scrabble.”

“I think mom goes because she enjoys the camaraderie and meeting people, and she kind of considers herself a Yukon ambassador,” said Mahoney’s daughter Trish Evans. “She’s been here since 1951 and she talks up the Yukon because she loves living here.”

Mahoney and Brekke are now part of the largest team Yukon has ever sent to the 55+ Games. Yukon is sending 153 participants, up from 79 at the last Games in 2012, when Yukon collected 31 medals.

Yukon will compete in 18 of the 24 sports and activities in Strathcona.

Eight Yukon communities outside of Whitehorse are represented on the team.

Membership of Yukon’s ElderActive, the organization that oversees the creation of Team Yukon, has doubled in size since the 2012 Games, growing from about 250 to 500.

The event itself will be the largest yet with 2,500 athletes and participants from across Canada expected at the Games.

In addition to having fun, Brekke plans to use his trip to the Games to “get people talking” about electoral reform.

“I’m passionately concerned about the electoral system, where votes don’t count,” said Brekke. “Under the present system, if you don’t vote for the choice, for the winner in your riding, you might as well have gone for a beer. It would have had the same effect in selecting your government. And all votes can count.”

“I’m hoping to talk to people out there and try to get somebody in the position, to put pressure on government to change our voting system and make votes count,” he added. “I was told not to mention it to you, but I can’t not mention it.”

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