Age is no reason to stop being active for Margrit de Graff.
Returning from the Canada 55+ Summer Games in Strathcona County the last week of August with two gold medals in cycling, the 87-year-old woman said she was pleased her hard work and training had paid off, but was a little surprised at the outcome of the races, especially because of her age.
“I have never, in my whole life, gone into competitions expecting to win,” said de Graff. “I was always hoping, but I don’t have to win.”
de Graff said that many people confuse her for a competitive person because she has competed (and continues to compete) in so many sporting events throughout her life.
However, she said she only does them for the fun of it and to stay active.
Staying active is very important to de Graff. She said she attributes her longevity to constant physical activity throughout her life and eating wholesome, nutritious food (de Graff’s other hobby is gardening and she said her garden provides most of her produce in the spring and summer months). De Graff added she avoids unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive drinking.
Another reason de Graff enjoys competing so much is because it gives her a goal, a reason to be active.
She said she would not have mounted her bike and rode nearly as often this summer if she had not been training for the Canada 55+ Summer Games. As it was, de Graff trained all summer for the competition, spending about an hour each day on her bicycle.
de Graff competed in two races in the Games, the 10km and the 20km.
She said she won the 10km quite easily with a time of 28:24:21.
As for the 20km, de Graff said it was much more difficult.
“It was quite tough,” said de Graff. She added that she had complications during the race as the chain fell off her bicycle about 7 kms in.
After a long and “enjoyable” downhill, de Graff was forced to coast to a stop and pull off on the side of the course to repair her bike.
A passing motorist offered to help her, but de Graff only accepted a tissue to wipe the grease off her hands.
By the time she was finished fixing the bike, de Graff was quite disheartened. All of her competitors had passed her and she did not think she would be able to catch up.
“They were all gone.”
However, when de Graff came up on one of the other cyclists and overtook him, she was spurred on to continue the race with new vigor.
When she crossed the finish line, she learned she had won her second gold medal.
“I was really surprised when I came in first again,” said de Graff.
Strictly speaking, de Graff did not qualify for the Games.
Technically, only gold medalists from provincial competitions are entitled to compete and when she competed in the Alberta Games last summer de Graff received a bronze, she said.
Yet, she was invited to compete still because of her dedication to staying active at any age, something that the 55+ Games exist to promote. de Graff even obtained a sponsorship for the Games, with her $4,000 bicycle being provided by United Cycle in Edmonton.
At over 730 athletes, this year’s Canada 55+ Summer Games were the largest ever. Alberta alone sent 140 participants who won 394 medals – 165 gold, 140 silver and 89 bronze.