The Yukon’s largest-ever contingent of senior athletes are preparing to compete at the 55+ Games this August in Strathcona County, Alta.
In the past, the Yukon has typically been one of the smallest contingents at the Games. Despite this, at the last event in 2012, the team collected 31 medals in track and field alone.
The team has also won the Spirit of the Games award three times, which is awarded to teams with the best overall spirit and sportsmanship.
After winning the award three years in a row, there was a moratorium against the team, said ElderActive association president, Tom Parlee, with a laugh. “I think we’re in the running again now.”
The hometown team of Alberta will be the largest challenger, with more than 800 members filling out its roster.
Yukon will compete with 153 athletes, a significant jump from the last games in Sydney, N.S., where the territory was represented by 79 competitors.
“We’ve gone from the smallest to the middle of the pack,” said Parlee.
Members of the team have already begun training, teaming up with several other organizations in the community.
They can be seen on the F.H. Collins track on Tuesday and Thursday nights, training with young athletes who are preparing for the national Francophonie games in Quebec and the North American Indigenous Games in Regina. Those groups are led by coaches Don White and Lisa Volk.
On Mondays, members of the bocce team train with Yukon Special Olympics athletes who are preparing to compete at the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Vancouver in July.
Parlee said the team is enjoying the opportunity to train alongside the younger athletes.
Yukoners will compete in 18 of the 24 sports and activities at the games.
The largest contingent of 19 participants will be playing slo-pitch, followed by 17 athletes in track and field and 16 members competing in carpet bowling.
The Alberta organizers are expecting 2,500 athletes and participants, making it the biggest games ever for Canadians over the age of 55 years.
Parlee said the excitement level of the team is running high heading into the most widely attended games in history, but there’s more to the experience than just bringing home medals.
“It’s a friendly competition,” he said. “And a big part of it is meeting old friends we’ve competed against in the past.”
Last week the team held a pep rally in preparation for the upcoming games, which included appearances from Mayor Dan Curtis and Coun. John Streicker.
The games began in 1996 as the Canada Senior Games and is held every second year in a different location, alternating between eastern and western Canada.
The ElderActive association was originally formed to train Yukoners to compete at the games but it has taken on a new shape, running year-round and offering different program keep Yukon’s senior community active.
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