Athletes proud to compete at SSFA 55+ Games

Wednesday was a productive day for Imperial, Sask.’s Joe Koza.

At 10 a.m., he competed in the long jump. At 2 p.m., he ran the 400 m race. Half an hour later, he started throwing the discus.

Koza won gold medals in all three events. Oh, he’s also in his 80s.

“I’m still able to do it,” Koza said with a chuckle after receiving his final gold medal of the day. “That’s the main thing. I know I’ve got a lot of grandkids watching, as well as my immediate family. It makes me proud to represent them. Hopefully they feel the same.”

Koza isn’t alone in his athletic pursuits. He’s one of hundreds of athletes who travelled to Prince Albert for the Saskatchewan Senior Fitness Association (SSFA) 55+ Games, which wrapped up on Thursday.

Koza said he appreciates the camaraderie as much as the competition.

“It’s very uplifting to meet some of the other participants that I’ve known through this organization,” said Koza, who started competing at SSFA events at age 70. “I’ve met a lot of people over that time, and a lot from every province as well.”

Gold medalist Tom Wormworth (left) receives a congratulatory handshake from 8-ball event coordinator Jim Hammill (right) at the Seniors Heritage Centre in Prince Albert. — Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Track and Field runs in the family for Koza, but that’s not what he credits for his good health. His son used to coach track clubs in Regina, but Koza said his career laying water and sewer lines in small towns across Saskatchewan had a bigger impact.

“It kept me out in the environment,” he says. “My workplace was always outdoors.”

Weather wreaked havoc with outdoor events over the three-day competition, as rain forced organizers to postpone a few events like slow pitch.

Inside, competitors were just happy to be competing. The original 55+ Games began two years ago in Prince Albert, but were forced to postpone indefinitely when COVID arrived shortly after completing a few winter events.

After a two year wait, athletes like Prince Albert’s Tom Wormworth, who took Gold in the Age 65-74 8-Ball Championship, where just glad to get going.

“This place was closed for a while,” he said, motioning to the Senior’s Heritage Centre where the 8-ball competition was held.

“It was really nice to get back.

The long layoff didn’t seem to affect Wormworth, who went a perfect 7-0 in 8-ball play. It’s not surprising for someone who started playing when he was 14.

“When you’re my age, it doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of things,” he said. “It’s like riding a bike.”

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