Even at 76-years-old, Alida Brichon keeps adding to her repertoire.
The athlete participated in the 55+ B.C. Games in Vernon last month, her 20th year of competing in the games. She enjoyed her best finish in 20 years of participation, bringing home six gold medals from various swimming events.
She adds those medals to a collection of more than 200 that she’s collected from the games.
“This year was the most gold I’ve ever gotten,” said Brichon. “Most years I would get something like four gold and two silver, but I’m becoming a better swimmer.”
After kicking water in the face of Father Time, Brichon is continuously improving in the pool. Her main event has always been breaststroke. It’s was the primary swimming technique that she learned when she grew up in Amsterdam.
Now, she’s adding both front and back crawl to her arsenal.
“I’m getting there with the front crawl and back crawl,” Brichon said. “This year I was beating more people.”
Brichon’s competitiveness is engrained in her DNA. It’s what pushes her to keep up a strong exercise regimen, which includes swimming more than five kilometres every week.
“Swimming is healthy for you,” she said. “It’s great for anyone who can do it.”
Once a week, Brichon completes a two-kilometre swim in White Rock with the White Rock Swim Masters Club. She spends another two days a week in the pool, but on those days she “only” swims 1600 or 1700 metres.
Brichon lets up in the pool by a couple-hundred metres on those days because she spends an hour working out in the gym before she jumps in the pool. Working out, coupled with a regular swimming routine, has helped her morph into a more well-rounded swimmer.
“When you get older, you lose your muscle mass,” she said. “It’s important to keep on top of that.”
After she started working out seriously about two years ago, Brichon says she can lift more than double the weight that she used to with most exercises.
“I’ve found that since I started working out in the gym, I’m stronger than I was two years ago when I first started working out seriously.”
Brichon’s love for sport and competition culminated when she first heard about the 55+ B.C. Games 20 years ago. Her love for sport shone so brightly that she found herself in a dilemma entering her first games.
“When I first heard about the games, I wanted to go into tennis, badminton, and swimming,” Brichon said. “Then I realized you can only do one sport because they all go on at the same time.”
That’s what led her towards sticking with swimming, despite a love for all kinds of different sports.
“I’ve been in sports all my life. To me, it is my life. If I couldn’t do sports anymore, I’d miss it.”
Her passion helped her get involved with the 55+ B.C. Games 18 years ago. Since then, she’s worked on a committee with other people to help coordinate the games.
She’s watched the games grow over the last 20 years. Originally, the games included 800 athletes from across the province. Now, there are more than 3500 participants.
“It’s lots of fun, Brichon said. “You get together with people once a year, and even though you might be swimming against, them, you’ll tell them ‘good job’, because there’s a good chance your friends outside of the pool.”
Even though there’s a friendly nature to the games, Brichon doesn’t let go of that burning competitiveness.
Athletes of the games are organized based on where they live. Brichon is part of Zone Three, which includes athletes from Surrey and the rest of the Fraser Valley. This year, Zone Three was runner-up to Zone Five, featuring athletes from Okanagan-Similkameen
“We were second this year and I thought darn it, we’d been first for four or five years, we’re slipping!”
Even if Zone Three slipped in this year’s standings, it doesn’t look like Brichon’s impressive athleticism will tailor off anytime soon.
“I try to do as much as I can now because at my age, you don’t want to have any regrets. I can do it now, so why not do it?”