She entered nine events. She won eight medals. And this for a woman who hasn’t been a competitive swimmer since she was 18.
Nelson’s Wilma Turner had one of the biggest hauls of the BC Seniors Games last week, earning one gold, three silver, and four bronze, helping West Kootenay Boundary to a second-place finish in the overall medal count.
Fraser Valley led the 12 provincial zones with 265 medals, including 124 gold. West Kootenay was next with 240, made up of 106 gold, 65 silver, and 69 bronze. The Lower Mainland finished third with 238, but led in gold with 133.
Turner’s gold came as part of the women’s 4 x 25 m freestyle relay team in the 80 to 84 age category, while the other seven medals were for individual events, including different freestyle and backstroke lengths.
“I was just shocked every time I got out of the pool,” she says.
She faced stiff competition from North Vancouver’s Joan Parnell, who holds a dozen Canadian records in the 65 to 69 and 70 to 74 age categories, and has been ranked number one in the world in the 100 m and 200 m backstroke.
Parnell finished the Games with six gold and one silver.
Turner, 81, says there were a few races where a split second made the difference.
“The other lady beside me when I did the 200 m freestyle did a flip turn and I didn’t,” she says. “I should have just kicked up that adrenaline and gone for it. She only beat me by one second.”
And what about the 4 x 50 m mixed freestyle relay, the lone event where she failed to medal?
“It must have been the men who didn’t swim fast enough,” she laughed. “I did my best.”
Turner, who has been active in all-things aquatic her whole life, says she “had a blast” in her first Seniors Games and hopes to compete again, but it won’t happen next year as she’ll be at a wedding that week.
“I might try [when I’m] 83 and maybe Joan Parnell will be in a different age group!”
Fellow Nelson swimmer Bev Derby also competed in the Games for the first time, in the 55 to 59 age category.
“What appealed to me was the fact it was at home, and I didn’t have to take tons of time off work or put out a lot of money for hotels and food,” she says. “I thought I would give it a try.”
Derby finished with medals in two of the three events she competed in: a gold in the 100 m backstroke and a silver in the 100 m breaststroke.
“It was just an awesome experience to sign up and try it. I’m not a particularly competitive person, so this was just interesting to get in there and do it. Now I’m already thinking oh, maybe next year.”
Nelson’s Bill Triol also had a strong performance in the pool, earning three gold and three silvers.
On the field, Dan Seibel earned one gold and four silver in the shotput, weight throw, javelin, hammer throw, and pentathlon.
Nelson’s Mike Wagg, who earned a silver medal in golf in the 55-59 category, says he was “totally shocked” given that he had a nasal infection and “my balance was off. I couldn’t hit the ball that well. The first day I shot horribly and the second round I shot better, but still it was not very good.”
After the first round, he didn’t bother to check the leaderboard. “I thought ah, I’m just here for fun.” Still, it was good enough for silver.
It was Wagg’s second go at the Games — two years ago he earned gold. He says he’ll be back again next year.
On the lake among the dragonboats, the Nelson-based Kootenay Rhythm Dragons fell just short of a medal, while the other local team, the Kootenay Robusters, earned silver.
Still, Rhythm Dragons member Judy Deon says they were happy with their performance.
“We missed by a few seconds getting into the final, but we made some times that were the best we’ve ever done,” she says. The Rhythm Dragons were first in two of their heats and second in two others.
And while home lake advantage didn’t seem to help, she says they did appreciate the many cheering supporters on hand.
“That helped us at the end. We put on a bit of a spurt when we heard those yells,” Deon says.