Steve Gittus started curling when he was 43 years old and never stopped.
The persistence and love of the sport earned Gittus, who turned 103 on Sunday, the Guinness Book of Records title of world’s oldest curler.
The record book named Gittus world’s oldest curler in 2010. But the milestone, along with his birthday, was celebrated Saturday at the Kamloops Curling Club.
Joining him and his wife of seven years, Mildred, were dozens of boys and girls with the club’s junior curlers and Canada junior women’s curling champions Corryn Brown, Erin Pincott, Sam Fisher and Sydney Fraser.
Brown and her rink are bound for the world junior curling championships in Sochi, Russia, next Saturday.
The celebration included cake, prizes for the junior curlers and a chance for people to get the world’s oldest curler’s autograph. Club general manager Paula Williams said it was also an opportunity to celebrate two successes and encourage a younger generation to keep curling.
“There are good things going on in this club,” she said.
Gittus has been curling at the club twice a week for the better part of 25 years. He and Mildred live on the Shuswap.
He told The Daily News he started curling in 1955 while in the army. He had just been posted to Quebec City and didn’t know anyone.
“I thought I’d join a curling club and meet a lot of people. By the end of the year I knew everyone, which was about 43 curlers,” said Gittus.
And he never stopped playing. Gittus stuck with it because it’s good exercise and he meets a lot of people, he said. But he doesn’t attribute curling to his longevity.
“If I knew that, I’d bottle it and sell it,” he said.
He’s modest about his skills as a curler, saying practice makes perfect. At 103, Gittus has no trouble throwing the rock. The problem now, as it always has been, is getting it to go where he wants it.
“I don’t think I have any tricks.”
When he’s not curling, Gittus likes to play bridge. That’s how he met his wife. The two still play together.
“I used to play golf, but I gave up golf a couple of years ago,” he said. “My handicap was getting higher and higher.”
As for Brown and her rink winning the Canadian juniors and heading to Russia? Gittus said he’s proud of the girls. The only advice he can give them is to stick with it.
Brown said Gittus is an inspiration.
“It’s nice to know that this isn’t our last year of curling. There’s still many years to go,” said Brown.
Gittus is living proof that never giving up can lead to long-term enjoyment of the sport, she said.
Club director Wayne Saboe hopes Gittus will throw the first rock at the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier. He said Gittus would be 104, which has to be good for another Guinness record.
Mitchell Kopytko, 11, was one of the first young curlers to get a Gittus autograph. His mom, Melanie, said her son has curled for two years and loves it.
She said it’s great that Mitchell could meet the oldest curler and a rink of young champions in one morning.