Margaret Raffan

Margaret Raffan

Raffan brings home the hardware

At 89, Margaret Raffan takes part in her first B.C. 55+ Games and surprises herself by winning six medals

Vernon’s Margaret Raffan originally regretted her friend Yvonne Dibblee’s long memory.

It was Dibblee, in 2014, who informed the then 87-year-old Raffan she was going to enter her in events she thought Raffan could compete in at the 2015 B.C. 55+ Games in August in Burnaby.

“I was hoping she’d forget but she didn’t,” laughed Raffan, who will be 89 in January. “She’s got more faith in me than I have in myself. I didn’t want to let her down so I thought I’d better go for it.”

Dibblee entered Raffan in track and field, and six events in total. The octogenarian, who had never competed in any track or any field event in her eight decades on Earth, won six medals.

Raffan won gold in the 5,000-metre race walk (12.5 laps of the track), a pair of silver medals in javelin and a race-walk relay with her Zone 8 teammates, and bronze medals in shot put, discus and weight throw.

“I just tried to do my best,” said Raffan, who wore backwards the hat of her family’s business, Valley Auction Ltd., during competition, along with bib No. 206 and the matching red Zone 8 team jacket.

“I like challenging myself. I never expected to win any medals. Yvonne said to me, ‘Are you going to pick up your medal?’ and I said, ‘You gotta have rocks in your head.’ I’m still in shock. I’ve never done anything like this. I still can’t fathom it.”

A self-proclaimed Depression-era girl, Raffan grew up on a farm 26 kilometres east of Three Hills, Alta., the sixth of nine children.

There was no track program in public or high school in Three Hills.

“I loved tumbling in public school, we had an old mattress down in the basement,” said Raffan. “I played on the girls outdoor hockey team, always on defence because I couldn’t skate well. I never had proper skates. We were lucky to have one pair for the whole family, but we had fun. I curled, too.”

When Dibblee told Raffan she had registered for Burnaby, Raffan drew inspiration from her late mother, Mary.

“She always said, ‘Don’t say can’t; always say try,’ so I figured I had nothing to lose,” said Raffan. “I was just determined, I like to pursue things, and I owe a lot of that to my mom.”

She also got inspired reading a book Dibblee gave her: What Makes Olga Run, a story about Canadian track and field athlete Olga Kotelko, who held more than 30 world records and won more than 750 gold medals in her age category, between 90 and 95, at Masters competitions. Kotelko died in 2014.

To prepare for the Games, Raffan practised throwing a javelin about six times, and she tries to walk as much as she can – when not hampered by the extreme heat the North Okanagan experienced this summer – from her Alexis Park area condo, up and down 39th Avenue, or down 39th Avenue and returning to home after strolling along 30th Avenue.

Her first 55+ Games was a great experience, said Raffan. Asked if she would compete in Coquitlam in 2016, she smiled and said, “A year? That’s quite a ways away. I hope I’m still above the grass. One day at a time.”

n Also at the B.C. 55+ Games, Norm Ouston and his niece, Cindy Ouston of Armstrong, competed as a team in cribbage with 80 other participants.

All contestant teams were divided into five flights and each team played three games with every team in their flight for the best score totals.

The Oustons recorded the highest points so therefore came in first in their division and won their first gold medal for that achievement.

Each of the five flights sent their top winners to the final cribbage game room to compete for the championship gold medal with all division winners

One final showdown game was played with each team.

Having points of 121, 121, 121, 121 and 118, Cindy and Norm triumphed for a second gold medal.

Vernon’s Lincoln Lanes was happy to send a team to five-pin bowling in North Vancouver, held at a bowling centre where scoring is done the old-fashioned way: with pencil and paper.

The team included George Smith, Lorraine Heichert, Ethel Somers, Gordon Conway, Gerry Skura and spare Rick Redwood from Penticton.

Heichert won two gold medals for high singles on two days of the four-day event.

Redwood won gold and a silver and Smith recorded a bronze for the third highest triple on the last day of bowling.