Mae Turek had her walker beside her as she waited under a white tent for her turn at hammer throw Thursday afternoon.
The 81-year-old Vancouver woman raced in the 800-metre the day before for the first time in five years. That was her big challenge, her “gold medal” as she put it, in this Games.
Oh, and for hammer throw, it was breaking the 18-metre mark.
As she watched her competition in the third round of throwing, she commented: “Maybe I’ll get my 18 yet.”
She was dressed for athletic success: grip glove on her left hand, red and black Greyhounds team jersey, black and white skort and pink and white runners.
“She’s doing really well,” she said of another thrower.
Then another woman got up and tossed more than 10 metres. Not a big number for some, but for those competing, there was an appreciation of her accomplishment.
“This lady just started this year,” said Turek. “She hadn’t seen a hammer until two weeks ago.”
A couple more competitors and then Arna Kristian, 79, took her turn throwing the hammer, which is really a two-kilogram weight on a wire and handle.
“What did you get?” Turek asked.
“Nineteen and sixty-six.”
The conversation turned to another friend and athlete, Margaret Tosh, who they agreed would have whipped all of them.
Kristian and Turek are from Saskatchewan originally; one came from the northwest, the other from the northeast, and they first met in 1951 at a provincial high-school track meet.
So who would beat whom?
“Let’s draw straws,” Kristian suggested. She didn’t join the B.C. Senior Games until 2002, but was happy to rediscover some long-time friendly rivals.
Turek’s turn again. She heaved the hammer in circles over her head, then let go — 18.8 metres.
“I got it, I got it! Holy cow,” she cheered. “That’s my PB (personal best) this year.”
Her all-time best was more than 20 metres, but that was five years ago when she was younger and in a different age category. And her hips were different, too.
Turek grew up on a Saskatchewan farm where she threw around shocks of wheat. At school, someone noticed her talent tossing a baseball and suggested she try javelin and discus. It wasn’t until years later that hammer was added to women’s throw sports.
She began competing in the Games in 1992, but this time around she had a mission. Beyond setting personal bests.
“I came to compete with my hips.”
She’s had three hip replacements. The first one, the left side, lasted four years but wasn’t done properly. She complained about pain for a year before a specialist caught the problem.
The second time, she had both hips replaced. The improper first replacement affected her femur and the bone broke while she was in surgery. She was given a bone graft that still bothers her.
She spent six months in hospital after having both hips replaced. Turek wasn’t about to let that slow her down.
“You’re not dead when you have your hips done,” she said, adding another senior athlete called her an inspiration.
Her advice is that everyone should have goals, and to not let obstacles — even hip replacement — get in the way. After achieving her goals at this B.C. Seniors’ Games, Turek still has her eyes on a bigger prize.
“I want to be on the podium in the world games. It might not happen, but it’s a goal.”