Yukon seniors preparing to compete in Canada 55+ Games

Yukon seniors are getting ready to participate in the Canada 55+ Games. While there isn't a lot of opportunity to practice in Yukon the team hasn't deterred from participating at the upcoming national competition.

The competition will be hosted in Kamloops, B.C. Aug. 23-26

Nesta Leduc, 89, said being active through sports has been a positive factor on her health, flexibility and lifestyle. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

At 89-year-old, Nesta Leduc is the oldest team member in the Elder Active dragon boat program in Whitehorse.

She is living proof it's never too late to learn something new.

"I've done quite a bit of paddling, both kayaking and canoeing, but this is my first attempt to paddle in a big group and be right on time," she said.

Dragon Boat Racing is a great team building sport and it requires a lot strength, flexibility and synchronization. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

A friend persuaded Leduc to join the team run by Flatwater North. So far, it's been a joyous experience, but dragon boat racing requires a lot of strength, flexibility and synchronisation, which is presenting some challenges for Leduc.

"I'm finding it quite hard work to paddle to the beat. I'm not as young as I used to be," she said.

Sports have always been a pivotal part of Leduc's life.

"I've always exercised. I've never run, but I've done a lot of walking, I paddle, I swim every morning at the pool, and it's why I'm still here at 89, and able to do this stuff," she said moments before heading to the docs for the Tuesday afternoon practice at Schwatka Lake.

She and the team are getting ready to compete at the Canada 55+ Games in Kamloops, B.C., next month.

But this won't be Leduc's first time in the competition. In fact, she has participated since 1984 in multiple sports and roles, including first-aid, swimming, bicycle, and now, dragon boat racing.

'I have learned that as long as I stick the paddle in the water, it doesn't matter how long I pull, as long as I'm in tune, in cadence, with everybody else,' said Leduc, the eldest team member. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

Brianna Hartness, the head coach with Flatwater North, said August's dragon boat event will be a demonstration race without medals.

"They've been working pretty hard," she said.

Hartness said there are 30 people on the roster.

"They're just showing what the sport is about. Hopefully we can create a tradition up here for more dragon boat racing," she said.

New challenges

The Elder Active dragon boat team practiced at the Canada Games Centre pool during the winter months. (Submitted by Brianna Hartness)

Dragon boat racing is not particularly popular in the northern parts of Canada compared to the southern provinces. Part of the reason is because there isn't a lot of opportunity to practise.

During the winter, the team was practising at the Canada Games Centre pool, and just recently moved to Schwatka Lake when the ice melted.

Stella Martin said she is excited to learn from more experienced teams once the Yukon group heads down to British Columbia for the Canada 55+ Games. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

Stella Martin, one of the team members, said this might bring challenges during the actual competition.

"First of all, we're all novice dragon boaters. We'll be up against the B.C. gang that dragon boat all the time," she said. "We're on a lake [now], we're going to be on moving water for the first time, and we won't get a chance to practise in any of their boats before our race time. So we're facing a few little curves."

Martin said regardless of the challenges, she's excited to learn from the other teams and be walking distance from the water. 

The team will continue practising twice a week until they leave for the competition next month.

Geana Hadley and Jan Brault at the weekly dragon boat practice. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)


Sissi De Flaviis


Sissi De Flaviis is a Venezuelan-born reporter/editor for CBC News in Whitehorse, Yukon. She previously worked at CBC Ottawa. Contact her at