Above: Sturgeon County resident Rosa Semenchuk won gold at the Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games. The gold medal was in the Pickleball 65+ Women’s Doubles event. – Lucie Roy Photo
by Lucie Roy
Sturgeon County resident Rosa Semenchuk, alongside her teammate Vivian Oko of Westlock, won gold at the Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games. The gold medal was in the Pickleball 65+ Women’s Doubles event, which qualifies the duo for the Nationals to be held in Ontario next year.
Semenchuk said this was the first year they had Pickleball at the Games. The fastest growing sport in Canada, Pickleball has now become an authorized event for the Alberta and Canada Senior Games. The game is part tennis, part badminton, and part table tennis. The game is played on a badminton court with a net at tennis level, the paddle is a bit bigger than a table tennis bat, and a tennis sized ball with holes in it is used.
Semenchuk said there is outdoor and indoor Pickleball, and although she plays both, she prefers the indoor games.
She is a member of the St. Albert Pickleball Club, which started off playing at Servus Place. The memberships have grown so much that they can’t accommodate them.
“There are outdoor facilities for pickleball in St. Albert, but there is not [an] indoor facility,” Semenchuk said. “So what we would like, which would be wonderful, is a place like the Red Willow Badminton Club. We need more courts as many are sitting and waiting to play. The Club has over 200 members [and] not everybody comes at the same time, thankfully. It is just so so popular and [a] wonderful way for seniors to socialize and have fun.”
Semenchuk said they were also teaching the game in junior and senior high school as well as elementary to get the younger people interested in it. So far the game seems to be popular with students.
The St. Albert Pickleball Club is open to members of all ages, but it is usually 55 plus who play, as it is during the day, and most players are retired.
Semenchuk said she was first exposed to pickleball in Arizona when she spent a month there. “The community that I lived in had a pickleball club and I wanted to know what it was like,” she said. “I went and enjoyed it.”
When she returned home she found the sport was not as popular here, but within a couple years Snowbirds returning home started playing and it grew from there.
It was just in the last two or three years that she got into it in a big way. Her Summer Games partner Vivian Oko belongs to the same Pickleball club and the duo played together In St. Albert and Westlock. Oko approached her one day to consider playing in the Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games, and they started training together ahead of their Summer Games win.
“We would love to have a facility in Sturgeon County,” Semenchuk said. “That would be great. People are really enjoying it. It is fun.”
Hosted in Strathmore, the 2015 Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games came to an end July 19 with more than 1200 participants 55 and over from eight provincial zones competing in 17 sport and cultural events.
Semenchuk and Oko were not the only local winners. The theme this year was Our Time to Shine. Zone 5 did just that with other winners including Mira and Terry Fenton of Legal placing third in the Pickleball 65+ Mixed Doubles event. George St. Laurent and Jerry Wozniak, both of Morinville, finished in first place in the Slo-Pitch 65+ Open Tournament “A” Division. Norman Carruthers of Sturgeon County placed fourth in the Slo-Pitch 70+ Open Tournament.
The medal count for Zone 5 was 43 gold, 31 silver and 23 bronze, putting the Zone in second place out of the eight Alberta Zones.