Racquet sports took center stage during the final day of the Ontario 55+ Summer Games, with pickleball and tennis in full swing.
Pickleball, similar to table tennis but without a table, has become such a huge sport in the county that it took two separate venues to host all the athletes.
The Sports and Wellness Center played host to the 55+ divisions and the women’s 65+ divisions, while Trent University played the men’s 65+ and mixed divisions.
Bruce Bozec, president of the Peterborough Pickleball Association, was in Trent on Thursday to play and cheer on fellow competitors. He and his partner Chris Brown played for bronze after winning the same medal at the Canadian National Championship.
Bozec is looking forward to the upcoming city tournaments in August and September. Pickleballers have a limited number of jobs available, so he hopes the city council will take note of the sport’s popularity with these games.
“We have over 200 members and are still growing,” he said. “Unfortunately, we lack quality jobs. We are now a large enough community to support much more. It would bring tournaments, regional matches and competitions. It is a money generator for the city and tourism.”
Mark Shaughnessy and Mike Fortin also played for a medal, although they were there more for the social opportunity the sport offers.
“I like the social part and the camaraderie,” Shaughnessy said. “I was originally a golfer. Five years ago I went to Arizona to play golf but found pickleball. Now it’s pickleball 95 percent of the time and golf five percent. It’s a lot of fun.”
Don Jackson and Teresa Nahrgang played their final game in the Mixed 65+ division earlier in the day, but stayed to cheer on their friends.
“Yesterday we won one, lost one and split one. We won both our games today, but we finished third,” said Jackson. “It’s a very supportive group that we have. When there’s a tournament, we stay all day and look at each other. It’s pretty cool and everyone is doing well.”
Jackson said it is his passion that drives him to play pickleball.
“Once it’s in you, it hits you and says, ‘I have to have it and I have to play.’ I’ve played all kinds of sports all my life, but this is the biggest. This is it.”
All athletes agreed that they enjoy the opportunity to practice during pickleball games. They love socializing, meeting new people and developing their skills.
“It’s a great activity, you get a lot of exercise and it’s very competitive. Any level, any age can play,” Jackson said.
Arlene Deck and Tom Windsor from Cobourg won gold in the Mixed 55+ category.
At Quaker Park Tennis Club, Forge Hamu and Jim Wasson led a large contingent of Peterborough athletes. Hamu is the chairman of the QPTC and was pleased to welcome the Games to the city as the host club.
It is the first time they participate in the Games, he said.
“We have been exposed to other people and other forms of play. When you play in a club like this that’s not that big, you don’t get the chance to play with a lot of different people, so it’s nice to play competitively against other people in your age group.”
Hamu believes that tennis, like pickleball, has room for growth in the city.
“We have a fairly good membership with 268 people. We have a very outdated club, so it’s a bit deceiving,” he said.
“A lot of these people play once or twice a week or where younger people like to play, but they can’t figure it out. Even when we have tournaments, we don’t have such a turnout within the club itself, so it’s nice to see a big tournament being organized here.”
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