New Plymouth’s Jean Sandel Retirement Village has come top of the medals table in the world’s first retirement village Olympics.
Jean Sandel scored a gold, silver and a bronze in the Olympics@RYMAN, which pitted 42 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia against each other in five disciplines.
The idea was to combine the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect with pioneering new technology to push the boundaries of what was possible and encourage positive ageing and wellbeing amongst Ryman’s 12,750 residents at the same time.
Ryman Group Chief Executive Gordon MacLeod said the Olympics@RYMAN had been a great success, with 700 residents taking part.
“You are inspiring, you’re awesome, and I can’t thank you enough for taking part,’’ Mr MacLeod told Ryman’s medallists at the closing ceremony in Auckland.
“You swam 2300m, biked 1500 kms, exercised billions of brain cells, rolled 2820 bowls and walked a combined 650 kms. Our oldest competitor was 92, our youngest was 67 and with an average age of 79 you brought a combined 55,300 years of experience to this event. I was lucky enough to watch and cheer you on, and it was humbling to see what you did.’’
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.
The Quiznastics event pitted 216 competitors at 36 villages in a live quiz event. Jane Mander village in Whangarei took gold, Malvina Major village in Wellington took silver and Kiri Te Kanawa village in Gisborne took bronze.
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 21.6km course.
Between laps, the walkers would do a handover of their fitbits and bumbags to the next walker.
Auckland’s William Sanders won the gold, followed by 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.
Logan Campbell’s Terry Griffiths won gold in the men’s swimming with a time of 28:33. A former Auckland representative swimmer, the Olympics@RYMAN sparked Terry’s return to the pool after years of not taking part.
“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 its 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 cycling 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.
Jean Sandel: 3 (Gold, silver, bronze)
Logan Campbell and Malvina Major: 2: (Gold, silver)
William Sanders: 2 (Gold, bronze)
Kiri Te Kanawa and Murray Halberg: 2: (Silver, bronze)
Pictured above: New Plymouth’s Jean Sandel had the biggest medal haul out of all the villages with a bronze, silver, and gold in three events. From left, Kevin Wilks who won gold in the men’s cycling, Gloria Shaw and Margaret Cole from the silver medal winning bowls team, Murray Boulter, who won bronze in the men’s swimming, and Allan Madgwick and Allan Bridgeman from the bowls team.