This week, two Kingston pickleball players will be competing against athletes from across the country, as Saima Paidra and Oriana Oszip participate in the Canada 55+ Games in Kamloops, BC. For Paidra and Oszip, the chance to compete in such a big event “should be a lot of fun.”
“There are more than 2,800 competitors in many different sports, [including] 21 pickleball players from Ontario,” notes Paidra.
The duo was initially set to compete in the event back in 2019, however delays — including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic — forced organizers to postpone the games to 2022. In Kamloops, Paidra and Oszip will be representing Ontario in District 10, with pickleball play set to begin later today, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022.
“We are honoured to represent our district and province at the Senior Games… We will be playing outdoors here in Kamloops. The city of about 100,000 has 10 beautiful dedicated outdoor courts in a lovely area called Riverside Park, a wonderful facility, which clearly appeals to players of all ages,” says Paidra.
As competitive athletes, Paidra and Oszip have both enjoyed success on the court, with Oszip recently winning two gold medals at the Canadian Pickleball Championships, which were held this past June in Kingston. While the athletes would love to win a medal at the Games in Kamloops, Paidra notes a positive result isn’t their only focus. “A medal would be rewarding, but the camaraderie of this sport cannot be understated.”
In order to make it to the Games, the two competed in a qualifying tournament back in 2018, meaning their trip to Kamloops has been a long time in the making. The men’s doubles event takes place on Wednesday, with the mixed doubles tournament occurring Thursday, ahead of Friday’s women’s doubles competition.
For those unfamiliar with pickleball, the sport is a racket/paddle activity similar to tennis, with two or four players competing on a court hitting a ball over a 36-inch net, back-and-forth with paddles in hand. The sport has quickly become a popular activity for recreational and competitive athletes of all ages, with clubs and courts popping up throughout the country. Paidra says she picked up the sport over a decade ago.
“I noticed some people playing in a gym in Kingston and I tried it for the first time. Then, I took myself out to Harrowsmith which, at that point, was the only place where outdoor courts were available… Like most people I was pretty much addicted from the first time I played,” she explains.
As for what she likes most about the sport, Paidra notes it’s a fun and social activity for all involved: “It’s very easy to learn, but not so easy to master. It is low cost and requires only simple equipment. It is also very social and inclusive. I have made many new friends of varying ages, playing locally and through tournament play.”
While the sport has risen in popularity over the years among athletes of all ages, Paidra says it is particularly appealing to older athletes due to its ease of play and positive physical health benefits.
“Because doubles is played on a surface the size of a badminton court, there is not nearly as much running as in tennis, for example. It is extremely satisfying to make improvements to your game at any age. It is an easy way to keep fit, and I would honestly say that I am more fit at 70 than I was at 60 or 50,” she says.
“Even people who don’t consider themselves to be particularly athletic have little difficulty getting started in the sport. More seasoned players tend to help newer players.”
Paidra encourages those interested in the sport to come give it a try at the Kingston Pickleball Club, located at 1150 Gardiners Road, “where learn to play clinics are offered, as well as play for all levels.”