Zone 2’s triple gold medal swim relay team, from left: Russel Sharock, Ian Burvill, Brian Staton and Jesse Van Muijlwijk.

Black Creek swimmer won nine gold medals at 55+ Games

Brian Staton added to his 55+ BC Games medal collection this year — in a big way. The Black Creek swimmer won nine golds at the annual multi-sport competition, Sept. 12-16 in Vernon, repeating his efforts at the 2014 event in Langley.

Individually, Staton was first in the 70-74-year age bracket in the 400 metre freestyle, 100m backstroke, 25m free, 50m back, 100m free and 200m free. He also won gold in three relays representing Zone 2 — Vancouver Island North.

“It’s not the Olympics,” he said. “If you’re beginning competitive swimming, it’s a good introductory meet, because it’s spread over three days rather than one. It’s more laid back (than masters swim meets).”

Staton grew up with the sport, competing in age group swim meets in New Westminster. He continued competing during four years at Simon Fraser University, shortly after the Burnaby campus opened in 1965.

“It was a good experience,” he said. “It was close to home, and they had athletic scholarships, the first in Canada, I think.

The scholarships were worth $215 per semester, which paid for tuition.

“That really helped go through school.”

Because SFU competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), most swim meets were held in the U.S.

“Coach (Paul) Savage, he recruited all across Canada,” Staton said. “I think we had a swimmer from every major city in Canada.”

After university, his swimming days were put on hold when Staton embarked on a teaching career. He and wife Barb taught in the Campbell River school district for over 30 years. He resumed competitive swimming as a masters athlete, shortly before retirement, participating in the 55+ Games and at masters swim meets, half of which are in the Lower Mainland. Nanaimo hosts a meet this month. Early November, he competed in a long course (50 metres) meet in Richmond. Provincials are in spring, followed by nationals a month later.

“In masters, there is no qualification. Anybody can go and enter.”

Staton says the 55+ Games (formerly the BC Seniors Games) are an “entity unto itself,” akin to a mini Olympics with medals presented to top three finishers. The Vernon event drew upwards of 3,500 competitors.

“It really helps the tourism,” said Staton, noting 1,500-plus volunteers ran this year’s event.

Swimming only had about 130 athletes.

“We could accommodate 200, 250, 300,” Staton said. “Any zone can have 24 women and 24 men maximum. Some sports have play downs in order to go, but swimming we’ve never had to do that.”

Kimberley and Cranbrook co-host the 55+ Games next year.

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