Three locals return from Ontario Senior Games in Brantford

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

Les Baker, Cynthia Woodland, and Chuck Quirie recently returned home from the Ontario Senior Games in Brantford. Quirie competed in golf, Woodland earned a silver medal in swimming, and Baker took home gold for billiards.

In the photo above, Woodland isn’t wearing her medal because she left early, thinking she hadn’t got a chance. Baker isn’t wearing his Region 1B shirt because he spilled soup on it. And Quirie wasn’t present since he was busy mowing his lawn, blissfully unaware of the brief ceremony that took place at the Sister Kennedy Senior Centre in Fort Frances on Monday.

All three of them were eligible to attend the provincial games after winning their respective events in May here in Region 1B — an area that covers Rainy River to Atikokan, and north to Nestor Falls.

Quirie was the first to arrive in Brampton — he arrived over a week early for the games, driving the whole way. Since he’s originally from down east, his early arrival was to spend time with family.

“It was a really good time,” said Quirie. “It seemed to go very quickly.”

With his convenient set of wheels, Querie was only an eight minute drive away from the Walter Gretzky Municipal Golf Course where he competed against about 50 senior men in the golf category. The competition used a modified Callaway system for scoring.

Cynthia Woodland, left, and Les Baker brought home some hardware from the Ontario Senior Games in Brantford, Ontario last week, with Woodland winning a silver medal in prediction swimming and Baker winning gold in billiards. Chuck Quirie also competed in the golf event at the games. –Daniel Adam photo

“It wasn’t as serious as I thought it would be,” he said.

Quirie said his favourite part was getting to meet lots of people from all over the province.

“It’s kind of funny how they’d see I was from Fort Frances and they’d know some people here and it’d give us something to talk about,” he said, noting specifically a man from Orillia who has hunted in the district every year since the ’70s. “It just seemed like you had a connection there with everybody.”

Another thing of note was that Querie was a flag bearer during the opening ceremonies, walking in front of 1,200 people with the Region 1B flag.

“I was a little nervous about that, but it was fine,” he said.

Woodland said she went down there to experience the games since she’s on the local committee. Swimming was open, and anybody could go in, so she did.

Swimming is interesting in the way medals are awarded — it’s a collection of categories, rather than the first-place finisher in an event automatically gets gold. Woodland competed in prediction swimming, with two sprints and a 100-metre race.

But after she finished her last race, Woodland needed to get going — she had a free limo ride lined up, but had to get there at a certain time. So while officials got the podium ready, Woodland waltzed past the medals, went “oh well,” and kept going.

It wasn’t until she was in the airport that she got a message saying she’d won the silver medal. She said she screamed, scaring the poor girl beside her.

“It was nice, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Woodland. “I haven’t won an award in a long time, so it feels good.”

Her medal was sent on Monday, and should arrive soon. Baker’s medal came home with him, and he said he enjoyed the whole experience.

“It was well organized,” said Baker. “There was no problem with the billiards, that’s for sure.”

Run from Legends Billiards and Lounge in downtown Brantford, the billiards portion saw a dozen competitors. Baker went 8-2 in the round robin, putting him in first place. The top four seeds went to a playoff, where one played four, and two faced three.

Baker won, moved to the final, and won again, clinching the gold.

“It’s an accomplishment because I put in a lot of work,” he said. “I would come [to the senior centre] in the mornings and practice and practice and practice and practice.”

In the evenings, he’d also go to a friend’s house to play on a smaller table. The snooker tables at the senior centre are six feet by 12, while the provincial games used 4.5 by 9.

“But when you can pot balls on a bigger table, the smaller table comes up a little easier since it’s not as far,” said Baker.

When he competed provincially last year, Baker came in seventh place.

“I knew I had the game I could win it,” he said. “I just needed to refine a couple things.”

Shooting close to the cushion was a big part of that training, since it takes a lot of consistency to not make errors in those tight windows.

Baker noted the talent level of those he was competing against.

“They hang around their senior centres and play pool, just like we do,” he said. “They’re all very good pool players — age is not a deterrent. They play more than anybody, because they’ve got the time.”

Since they’re retired, they can dedicate a lot of time to playing billiards and hanging out with friends around the table.

“There’s not a bad person that hangs around a pool table in the seniors,” said Baker. “They’re all so friendly, and sure it’s competitive, but you don’t see any tears when you lose, it’s just the way it goes.”

Baker noted his intent to compete in the nationals, which won’t take place until next year. The Canada 55+ Games will be held in Quebec City from August 27-30, 2024.