At 81, Norma Andrus is at the top of her game, winning gold and silver in table tennis at the recent 55+ B.C. Games in North Van.
The Cloverdale resident has been a perennial multiple medalist at the games since taking up the sport 12 years ago.
She plays three times a week – year round – at both the Cloverdale Rec Centre and in Langley.
Andrus was one of the names of Cloverdale athletes left off our recent round-up of the 2015 games, an annual multi-sport showdown that draws competitors from across the province.
Fraser Valley athletes took home 477 medals; 199 gold, 145 silver, and 133 bronze.
Andrus took table tennis gold in women’s singles (80+). She also picked up two doubles medals as well, claiming gold with Sven Peterson of Langley in mixed doubles (80+) and a silver with Langley’s Patricia Toppings in women’s doubles (80+).
It’s a remarkable achievement for anyone in her 80s, but even more so considering just four years ago, Andrus suffered a major setback that could have sidelined her permanently from the sport.
She was playing table tennis at the Langley Seniors Centre when she collided with another player who’d run from the other end of the room, chasing a ball. “He was running fast and he slammed into me,” she recalls. “He sent me flying, and fell on top of me.”
She broke a vertebrae in her back, but fortunately, wasn’t paralyzed. She has three fused discs as a result, along with four titanium rods holding her together.
At the time, the doctor predicted she wouldn’t play again.
“Nine months later, I went back,” she says. At first, she couldn’t even stand, much less get into a fast-paced volley at table tennis club without a walker. But gradually, she got moving, using a cane. She started playing again, steadied by the cane. Eventually, however, she was able to put it aside and play without it.
Andrus, who celebrated her 81st birthday in July, is happy to have proved the doctor wrong.
“I still have pain from it,” she says, adding she still cannot walk any great distance. But she was determined to get back to table tennis, no matter what it took.
“I just said, ‘I’m going to keep doing it. That’s what’s done it for sure, just going over and playing.”
She plays three to four times a week, alternating between the Langley and Cloverdale clubs.
The Cloverdale Table Tennis Club is a convivial group, and the members always grab a cup of coffee after the Tuesday and Friday sessions.
They even go out to dinner on occasion – such as a birthday of one of the members.
“It’s a really good group.”
Andrus had never played table tennis before she picked it up in 2001, when she was in her late 60s and was keen to keep active.
She tried exercise classes, but hated them. But when she heard about table tennis, she figured it was worth a try.
It’s great exercise, she says, noting, “They rank table tennis as the second best exercise for fitness, because of the hand-eye coordination and you have to move so many muscles.”
She won a bronze medal the first year she competed at the then-B.C. Seniors Games, and has picked up medals every year since then.
“The socializing is just as great as the exercise, too. That’s what makes it so great. It just gets you out of the house and gets you going, and it’s so enjoyable.”
Cloverdale athletes at the 55+ Games
Local seniors had a sizeable presence at the recent 2015 games in North Van, with many of the athletes wearing blue T-shirts supplied by the Cloverdale Seniors Advisory Board. The team shirts were meant to ensure the Cloverdale participants were easily recognizable, giving a “team” feel to the group, according to Patricia Wong, community services assistant at the Cloverdale Rec Centre.
In table tennis, Dolores Gock and Michelle Denault won bronze in women’s doubles. Gock also won bronze in mixed doubles. Dick Mak and Tom Stevenson won silver in men’s doubles. Maureen Brisson and Ed Bregg participated, but didn’t pick up any medals this year.
In Pickleball, locals Bob McQueen and Larry Friesen won bronze in men’s doubles. Eileen Dowell, Shaaron Small and Patrice Van Nieuwkerk also participated.
Below: Cloverdale’s Bob McQueen, Patrice Van Nieuwkerk and Larry Friesen competed in pickle ball at the recent 2015 55+ BC Games. – Photo contributed