One of the more unique sports taking centre stage at the Ontario 55+ Winter Games this year is prediction skating.
The way it works is skaters determine how long it will take them to skate either 27 or 13-and-a-half laps depending on their age. After predicting how long it may take them, the skaters take to the ice without a stopwatch, music, or clock in the arena — nothing but the sound of their blades carving up the ice.
The competitor with the closest to their guessed time is crowned the winner of the event.
Judy Vye, the coordinator of prediction skating, says the nine participants in this year’s event at Orillia's Rotary Place have had a lot of fun.
"They just enjoy being out on the ice with their peers," she explained. "Nobody really cares about winning or losing, they just want to have a good time."
Leanne Jongeneelen, from Oxford County, trained to compete in Nordic skiing at the Ontario Winter Games this year. When the event was cancelled due to mild weather, she was offered the opportunity to join prediction skating, even though she had never tried it before.
"I had no time to practise," she said. "Yesterday was my first run and it was a lot of fun."
Jongeneelen overestimated her abilities during her first try at the sport on Wednesday and was off her time by about two minutes.
"I think I'm still going to aim for that same time during my second run," she said. "I got my skates sharpened today and I want to challenge myself."
Jongeneelen, 59, doesn't regret her decision to compete in a brand new sport at the Winter Games.
"This has been really great," she said. "I enjoyed the opening ceremonies, I've met some great people, and the whole downtown Orillia experience has been awesome."
Jongeneelen says it's important for people to try new things and to challenge themselves.
"I like to stay active for fun," she said. "It's great to get out with like-minded people and see where I stand as far as my ability."
By participating in sports, Jongeneelen can keep up with her grandchildren, which, she says, is a big deal for her.
"I take my grandchildren snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing," she said. "I want to stay active so I can do things like that with them for as long as I can."
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jongeneelen says many seniors stopped playing sports and many haven't returned to athletics.
"You got to move it, or you lose it," she said. "My goal is to keep Nordic skiing and to join a hockey team."
Once Jongeneelen loses some of her athletic abilities, she says she will return to prediction skating as it's a low-impact spot.
"I think I might try this again when I'm 75," she said. "I prefer to stay even more active and to play more intense sports for as long as I can."
Jongeneelen says the women she's skated with this week have been rather competitive.
"The one skater has been doing it for 12 years and she's won this multiple times," she said. "It's more so competition with yourself and isn't necessarily against anybody else."
The two-day Winter Games for those 55 and older wrapped up this evening. More than 850 athletes competed in a variety of sports over the two days at various venues in Orillia and throughout the region.