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VC alumni stay young at heart

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Ed Gladstone plays his 'match of a century';
runner Norm Lesage sets national sprinting records

By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic

(Caption: Ed Gladstone, champion tennis player and cancer survivor, played a match July 14, three days after his 100th birthday. He is a 1928 VC grad. Photo submitted.)

A high school with an over 90-year history has thousands of graduates gifted with different talents. In the case of Vancouver College (VC), two unique alumni prove athletics are not just for the young.

Ed Gladstone

One alumnus continues to carry his tennis racket at the age of 100. Ed Gladstone graduated from VC in 1928, six years after the school opened.

His last game marked a significant milestone: a "match of the century" at the New Westminster Tennis Club July 14 came three days after his 100th birthday.

"My father had three wishes: to live to 100, to play tennis on his 100th birthday, and to get a birthday letter from Queen Elizabeth II," explained Ann Thibault, his daughter.

She confirmed three letters had arrived: one from the Queen, another from Governor General David Johnston, and a letter of blessing from Pope Francis.

Thibault said her father emigrated from Middleborough, England, during the First World War in 1917. He started serving aces when he was 7.

Cancer Survivor

Gladstone eventually became an accountant for the Pacific National Exhibition and later a director. He retired from a position at Sports BC at the age of 87.

From 1988 to 2002, or 72 to 88 years old, he brought home an astounding 37 medals from the World Senior Games, held in St. George, Utah.

He also won the B.C. Senior Tennis Singles championship at the age of 82, and at 84 emerged victorious as Canadian Doubles champ.

Five years later, Gladstone faced his toughest opponent: cancer. His great-granddaughter, Hope Tarver, detailed that he went through 25 radiation treatments and a seven-hour surgery to remove a tumour from his colon.

"He wanted to play tennis more than he wanted to sleep," she recalled. While bedridden in hospital, Gladstone performed stretches to prepare himself for stepping back onto the court.

Tarver wrote, "He's a cancer survivor, and the man who lived, and he truly has."

Not merely a brilliant tennis player, Gladstone is a fan of classical music and enjoys hiking in the Grand Canyon and jotting in the answers to crossword puzzles.

Rob Sider, president of the New Westminster Tennis Club, said Gladstone won his first veterans singles championship in 1974, and thereafter dominated the circuit.

"Ed was the 'Montreal Canadiens' of (the New West club) in the 1970s," Sider chuckled, in reference to the Stanley Cup champions.

The president believed Gladstone is a "marvelous example of a gracious athlete," who continues to demonstrate to junior players why tennis is "such a great sport, not just when you're 15 years old."

"It's a sport for life, played with graciousness and respect."

Norm Lesage

(Caption: Norm Lesage sprints around VC's O'Hagan Field. He and three others set the world record for the 4x100 relay race for ages 80-84. Ronith Cogswell / Vancouver College.)

Another VC grad turned to running later in life: a lot later: at 68 years of age!

"I wanted to stay in shape. I started walking," pointed out Norm Lesage, 83, a VC graduate of 1948.

But the senior soon "got tired of the same route. The more you practise, the less you get out of it."

In 1999 he joined the Greyhounds Masters Track & Field Club, to learn how to run. The eager athlete's first official race did not end in a Chariots of Fire burst of glory.

In Phoenix, he finished dead last in a 100-metre race. His dogged determination, and help from his coach, Harold Morioka, led to eventual success.

Peaked at 77

"Harold said: 'Everybody peaks. You just peaked when you were 77,'" Lesage quipped with a hearty laugh.

Among his many records, Lesage has bettered his own nationwide record three times in the Men's (Age 80-84) 60-metre dash. In 2010 he posted a blistering 9.92 seconds at a meet in Kamloops.

"It was a photo finish against an American. When we broke across the track, we were both went through at 9.92. The officials spent a long time looking at the numbers."

By 2011, Lesage and his relay buddies had set the world record for the 4x100 relay race for ages 80-84.

Once he ran at a meet in Seattle and won both the 100- and 200-metre events.

"When I went up to get my medal, and (the officials) found out I was Canadian, they gave me a cheaper medal," he recalled. "That's the last time I'm coming down here and beating you guys!"

The sprinter firmly believes active seniors could save the health-care system a major amount of money. He teaches groups to first run 10 metres.

Usually uninterested seniors perk up when faced with small challenges.
"If you've got it, it can be done," Lesage concluded.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 08:22  

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