hat Heidi Bromley would make such a big splash in her speed swimming debut at the BC Seniors Games came as no huge surprise given her competitive spirit and deep running connection with water, but being called up to the podium to receive Pacific Sport’s Sport Achievement Award for Masters Athlete of the Year, “was a big a surprise.
“It’s quite a big deal, so it was nice. Being the first one called up and never having been I was a bit nervous,” she conceded recently.
Well known in these parts as the long-time coach of the Ravensong Water Dancers synchronized swim team, Heidi turned in a terrific finish at her first BC Seniors Games back in September in Courtenay, when she powered her way to nine (yes, 9) gold medals in the pool — six individual and three relay — in the W55-59 age group.
Nanaimo and the SAA’s marked her first time attending an awards banquet. There were 14 categories in all; at this year’s big night held at the Coast Bastion Inn in Nanaimo Feb. 5 with three finalists in each.
The room was packed with over 240 people, and there were numerous dignitaries in attendance such as MLA Len Krog and Mayor John Ruttan; Olympians/Paralympians Sue Schellinck (nee Reid), Leila Rai and Tony Theriault as well as special guest, Nanoose Bay wheelchair racer Michelle Stilwell who recently returned from world championships with thee gold and a silver.
Heidi was up against track phenom Joe Geigerich (also from Nanoose Bay) and record breaking powerlifter Rhonda Heaslip.
“It was a surprise — the whole thing was a surprise,” said Heidi. “I have no idea who nominated me. I was away on holidays so …”
Heidi, 55 and a recently retired self-employed bookkeeper, coached synchro at Ravensong for 13 years and along the way mentored hundreds of young women. Her daughter Thea was the club’s first head coach, and she took over the reigns in year two.
Heidi threw in the coaching towel three years ago, and she and her best friend Greg, husband of 27 years, have been logging a lot of miles doing what they love ever since, which is traveling.
The couple were on the road for three-and-a-half months last year; returned home for two weeks for Christmas, then left again for Tebet, Nepal and India, “then lying on the beach in Mexico for January.”
“Actually in Nepal we trekked for 23 days. It was amazing … they always say that Nepal always calls you back, and it’s true —we’re going back in 2012.”
Heidi says she’s hoping to return to the Seniors Games next year in Trail, and in the meantime, when not traveling, “my new teaching job is to teach (her granddaughter) to swim. She’s doing fantastic. She loves the water.”
Heidi also swims with the masters group out of Nanaimo and swam at a Masters meet in UBC a couple weeks back where she grabbed a few second place finishes.
When not traveling or swimming, the Bromleys like to take their kayak out off the shores near their home in Nanoose Bay.
Born and raised in Port Alberni, the good-natured Gemini grew up on the shores of Sproat Lake. She started helping teach swimming lessons during the summer months at 14, and eventually took over as head instructor, which she did for years. She swam with the Nanaimo Masters for four years after leaving the Waterdancers, and was back with them when Ravesong was closed down this year.
“I’m glad to get back in Qualicum,” she said.
While Heidi is a water baby, she was a rookie where speed swimming is concerned. She started training for her first Seniors Games with the Ravensong Masters swim club for all of 2009, and when RAC closed down for its big refit, she joined the health club at Fairwinds where she would swim with her daughter, and swam with the Nanaimo group right up until the Games.
“It was like going cold turkey when we started traveling because there were no pools,” she said when asked if she had any post-Games withdrawal. “It was sure nice to get back in the water and start swimming when we got back in January.”
Asked if his wife is competitive by nature and Greg nearly doubled over in laughter.
“Competitive by nature? That sure hits the nail on the head.”
Contacted last week to get her take on Heidi’s nine golds, BC Seniors Games’ Zone 2 (Ladysmith north including Powell River) swimming coordinator Nancy Ryan, who has been part of the last four Games, made the point that in swimming each athlete can only enter six individual events and three relays, “so the nine (gold medals) — that’s the best you can get.”
The two swim together at RAC, “it’s just so much fun,” says Nancy, adding, “I started in my late 50s. It’s a great camaraderie, and Heidi’s just such a great person. I never would have met her had it not been for swimming. This was her first year, and she just jumped right in there — she’s a great team member.”
Zone 2 sent over 20 swimmers to last years Senior Games.
The 2011 BC Seniors Games are slated for West Kootenays (co-hosted by Castlegar, Nelson and Trail) Aug. 16-20. Anyone living in Zone 2 that is interested in participating in the Games can contact Trish Anderson at 250-468-9498. The multi-sport Games for athletes 55-plus bring as many as 3,500 participants to the host communities and regions. Sports range from ice hockey to cribbage to soccer.