The first ever group of Olympics@Ryman athletes are preparing for a thrilling medal ceremony this Sunday where their winning efforts will be recognised.
Winners in each of the swimming, relay walking, cycling, lawn bowls and quiznastics (gymnastics for the mind) events will line up to receive their gold, silver and bronze medals at a special ceremony being held at Auckland’s Hilton Hotel.
The celebration comes at the end of an intense month of activity with 42 Ryman Healthcare villages in both New Zealand and Australia taking part in the world’s first international retirement village games.
The idea was to combine the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect with pioneering new technology to push the boundaries of what is possible and encourage positive ageing and wellbeing amongst Ryman’s 12,750 residents at the same time.
The lawn bowls was the first event to complete with Ryman’s long-established Hilda Ross village taking the gold in the world’s first remote lawn bowls game using Artificial Intelligence.
Playing on the green at their Hamilton sister village Linda Jones, the dynamic Hilda Ross team took on New Plymouth’s Jean Sandel team 951km away at Christchurch’s Diana Isaac green.
The game was played using technology developed by Hamilton-based Aware Group.
Using overhead cameras set up at each green and Microsoft video streaming technology plus a headset that interprets the bowls’ location via GPS, the technicians could accurately place the bowls on the two greens, making it possible for the two teams to play each other.
After a tense tussle, Jean Sandel became silver medal winners. Auckland’s Murray Halberg village beat off Christchurch’s Charles Upham in another virtual game earlier the same day to become the bronze medal winners.
Another group event was the relay walking where teams of six from 30 Ryman villages completed three lots of laps each at their designated venue to cover a distance of 21.6km.
Between laps, the walkers would do a handover of their fitbits and bumbags to the next walker.
William Sanders in Devonport won the gold, followed by Greenlane’s Logan Campbell who got the silver, and Hamilton’s Linda Jones with the bronze.
Proving that the intentions of the competition were being realised, William Sanders’ team captain Glynne Cockerton said: “I think the secret to our success was that we were all so supportive of each other, both on the day and during practice time, and we accepted that we may not win but it had been fun having a go.”
In Melbourne, top of the pops was Flynn Flyers, the walking team from John Flynn Retirement Village in Burwood East.
In the individual events, swimming and cycling, residents got the chance to excel at favourite sports.
In the case of Logan Campbell’s Terry Griffiths, who won gold in the men’s swimming with a time of 28:33, and is a former Auckland representative swimmer, it sparked his return to the pool after years of not swimming.
“I’ve been training every second day. I’m actually quite enjoying it, and some of these flappy muscles are going into muscles again!”
Murray Halberg’s Colin Tea won his village their second medal, getting silver, and Jean Sandel’s Murray Boulter took the bronze.
The cycling brought out some more stunners, with Jean Sandel yet again winning a medal, with their publicity-shy resident getting the gold.
The cyclists competed in different locations but could see each other’s avatars on a giant tv screen which projected a virtual reality course in Japan.
Evelyn Page’s John van de Schoor won silver and William Sanders gained their second medal with Allan Eriksen getting bronze.
In the women’s final Diana Isaac resident Doreen Watkins took gold.
The Christchurch resident said her run in for cycling gold at the Olympics@Ryman final included a final tough push for the line.
Doreen, a self-confessed fitness fanatic, was chased hard by Sue Greet from Anthony Wilding village. In the end Doreen took the gold in a time of 30min 59sec and Sue silver – just five seconds behind. Charles Fleming’s Norah Fraser took bronze with a time of 34.08.
The last event to take place was the much anticipated Quiznastics, with Ryman Group Chief Executive Gordon MacLeod acting as Quizmaster and using Murray Halberg village as base.
Gordon says the event was designed to foster competition and push the boundaries of technology.
“It is great to see how our residents have embraced the event – the competition has been ferocious. We’ve learned a lot about technology and where it can take us and we’ve had a bundle of fun along the way.’’