VANCOUVER—After watching the 43-pound stone she just threw make its way across the ice surface at the Vancouver Curling Club, 100-year-old Lola Holmes lifts her delivery stick above her head with both arms.
Lifting an arm or two is a common way for teammates to communicate with one another in curling, where their voices may not carry to the opposite end of the large arena. The signal can convey multiple meanings, but in Holmes’ case it’s clear.
It’s a sign of pride.
“I love to achieve and I’m very happy with myself today — it was very good,” Holmes said in an interview after the game, her first in the 2018-2019 season.
That game was particularly special for Holmes, because it was the first after her 100th birthday. She’s now the oldest curler the provincial sport authority is aware of, and one of the oldest of all time in B.C.
Just don’t think that puts her at a disadvantage.
“I got all of my shots but one — which hit a chip on the ice and went off,” she said. “Other than that, I’m very happy.”
Holmes began curling for the second time when she was much younger — only 80 years old. She had just moved to Vancouver and was actively searching for ways to make new friends. So, remembering how she enjoyed one year of curling when she was 25, she took some lessons.
She’s been curling every Monday and Thursday during the winter ever since.
Holmes’ son Aubrey Holmes joked that his mom is “the bane of the actuaries’ existence,” because she’s been on her pension for 40 years.
But all through her long retirement she’s been active — whether through curling, bridge, walking or tai chi.
“The behind-the-scenes backdrop is: when she comes home, she’s absolutely enthusiastic about the fact that she’s won a game,” Aubrey said. “Or she’s quite disappointed if she has not won a game. She’s competitive as well as energetic.”
She’s also an inspiration to other curlers. Marlene Rockliff, the skip of Holmes’ current ladies’ team, said Lola has an encouraging impact on the other curlers.
“She’s just lots of fun and she’s always got great stories to tell,” Rockliff said. “And she appreciates a party.”
Lola’s impact also goes beyond the Vancouver Curling Club. Scott Braley, executive director of Curl B.C., said members have been getting in touch with him to make donations to youth curling in Holmes’ name ever since they heard about her 100th birthday party at the curling club last week.
“That’s what she’s inspiring for the next generation,” Braley said. The sport is already popular among seniors in Canada, who often play to get exercise and socialize.
“We need to have more young people that realize that this is a great way to get some exercise, and it’s tough exercise,” he said.
Lola knows how tough curling can sometimes be. At the age of 83 her doctor told her she would have to quit the sport because she was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that limits movement in the wrist.
But she persevered and found a solution in the delivery stick she still uses to this day, which allows her to throw the rock from a standing position using an extendable pole.
“I like it because it’s exercise, there’s a skill to it and friendship,” she said. “Every girl should try and curl.”
Alex McKeen is a Vancouver-based reporter covering wealth and work. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_mckeen