Haliburton’s elderly athletes took to the ice, courts and slopes to compete at the Ontario 55+ Winter Games March 5-7.

The Ontario Senior Games Association biennial event hosted in Huntsville offers a chance for older people across the province to participate in 10 different sports. They include hockey, skiing, curling and volleyball.

Mary Johnson is the District 11 co-ordinator, comprising Haliburton, Minden, Kinmount, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville. The Haliburton native said the games are important for keeping older people active.

“In our area alone, we have a vast range of people. We have people in their 90s that have been participating. It keeps them active physically or mentally,” Johnson said. “They can socialize and meet new people who are interested in the same things.”

The event is comprised of 36 geographic districts and approximately 1,000 participants, according to District 11 media relations person Bev Kerr.

Local participants included Haliburton’s Barbara Ablett in alpine skiing and two men’s hockey teams from Haliburton and Minden, one 55 plus and the other 65 plus. District 11 hockey team representative Larry Molyneaux said the teams are made up of players from the local old-timers league. He said the event is an opportunity to play the sport they love competitively.

“Getting together, getting some exercise and meeting other people that are playing hockey,” Molyneaux said. “Making some new friendships.”

“Our main thing is to be out there, be competitive, have some fun, and make sure nobody gets injured,” he added. T

The District 11 medal finishers were both from Huntsville, with skier Mary Spring taking gold and a silver medal for Huntsville men’s 65+ hockey team.

Johnson competed in bridge. She said the competition can be fierce.

“Seniors like to win but it’s totally under control,” Johnson said. “Nobody gets upset that they don’t win. They don’t slack off either.”

However, Kerr said social experience is an important part of the event.

“Winning isn’t the sole purpose. It’s about meeting people from across Ontario, to get out, exercise and have fun,” Kerr said. “Winning is satisfying, but it’s the entire experience of socializing with other athletes.”

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