Sharing sport with the world

Groups of local athletes heading to Italy for World Masters Games, summer games for the older individual.

Ready to play: From left

Ready to play: From left

Tricia Martin and Irene Cultum first played soccer together nearly 30 years ago.

With the impetus of the upcoming World Masters Games, they could well be playing together for another two or three decades.

Martin, from Salmon Arm, and Cultum, a Vancouver resident, first played together in 1984 at UBC. For the past 17 years they’ve been running the Girls Only soccer school in Salmon Arm.

Cultum plays soccer with the Meralomas in Vancouver and, in 2002, the team decided to go to the World Masters Games in Melbourne, Australia. Martin joined them. They had a fabulous time, not only playing soccer – where they claimed the championship – but also basking in the camaraderie that permeates the Games.

In 2005, for the World Masters Games in Edmonton, a  more local team was formed, mostly with players from Kamlops, Vernon, Kelowna and Salmon Arm.

Martin and Salmon Arm’s Cathy Bartsch organized that one.

“It’s great to meet people from all around the world, doing the same sport you all love,” says Bartsch.

The 2013 Games, which are being held in Torino, Italy, are coming up Aug. 2 to 11.

The Worlds’ website describes the Games as “the summer games for sportspeople and enthusiasts aged to 100 and beyond.”

Participants are men and women over 30 who compete in different sports from track and field to soccer, from basketball to archery.

Different levels of competition and age groups means participants can find people at their level for competition.

The BC United team, as the partially local soccer team is called, went to the Games in Sydney, Australia in 2009. Although soccer was the spark – the team won all its games but missed the championship title because of a goals-against rule –  travel and friendship were, and are, just as important.

“You meet so many people,” says Martin. “Everyone’s so friendly and wants to know what your sport is, how you’re involved.”

Cultum notes that friendships made at the Games endure, with participants often travelling to see each other between Games.

Kevin Flynn, who is married to Bartsch, is also heading to Torino to compete. His sport – basketball.

This will be his third World Masters Games.

The first was in Edmonton, where he went as an individual and joined up with a team from Ireland.

In Sydney in 2009, some of the Irish lads were in an older group, so Flynn and his friend Brian Laight formed a new team. Many of the men have connections stretching way back.

“We’re really a bunch of guys who have known each other for years but don’t see each other much,” Flynn says, noting he’s known several since the days he played with them at UBC.

The team includes a medical doctor, a chiropractic doctor and a veterinarian, he smiles, “so any of our health needs can be attended.”

Flynn, not obviously a basketball player at five. ft eight ins, says he’s a good, steady point guard, “but what I’m really good at is organizing teams, getting good players around me. Can I set the world on fire? No. Can I play a decent role? Yes.”

Although the team is pretty competitive, “honestly, the Games are about the camaraderie and friendships…,” Flynn says. “We have an open invite to Australia, we have an open invite to Ireland. To me, that’s what these Games are about. Staying active, staying fit, and making friends through sport.”