Athletes on the bench

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Many of the Provincial Court’s judicial officers take seriously the adage “sound mind in sound body”. With a work life described as “sitting on the bench” judges and judicial justices need exercise to keep fit and stay healthy. And they get it in a wide variety of physical activities ranging from yoga to long distance races and mountain climbing.

Take the judges of the Okanagan Judicial District for example. One judge who disclaims athleticism walks in a 5k event. Another kayaks and participates in a dragon boat team. A third trains for long-distance hiking and cycling trips that can be described as breath-taking – both literally and figuratively - while a fourth re-lives his youth, just a little more slowly, playing old-timers’ hockey.



Yet another has competed in a Gran Fondo, cycling 160k in 5 hours and 40 minutes. Racing in a field of over 2000 with an average age of 46, this judge finished in the middle of the pack for his age group. An enthusiastic proponent of cycling, the judge reports, “It is easy on the joints, fun, and attracts very nice people.”

Then there is a judge whose sense of humour is world class. He says “Unlike most male judges, whose youthful sporting careers reach new heights the older they get, I was an enthusiastic but mediocre athlete in many sports. I always thought of myself as a world class athlete trapped in the body of a librarian!” (not that librarians aren’t athletic!)



A lower mainland judge played minor hockey and competed in track and field as a youth. These lifelong passions have led to his playing hockey in an elite men’s league team that competes internationally in locations including Moscow and St. Petersburg. When not in the courtroom or on the ice he competes in mountain running races – dashing up local peaks or along mountain trails – and consistently finishes in the top ten for his age group. For a change of pace, this stellar athlete took part last year in an enduro mountain bike race involving three different climbs and descents. He also shares his knowledge and skills, coaching minor sports – hockey, baseball or soccer – most seasons, and has won well-deserved coaching awards for this service to his community.

The province’s judicial justices enjoy a variety of athletic activities as well. One is an enthusiastic participant in the relatively new sport of pickleball, a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton. Pickleball is played both indoors and out with a giant ping pong racquet and a plastic whiffle ball on half a tennis court or on a badminton court. This judicial justice attributes a 24 pound weight loss in one year to playing pickleball two or three times a week, even when travelling to conduct traffic court around the province. And all this practice has led to his competing in tournaments, culminating in a gold medal at the B.C. Seniors Games.

Another judicial justice began her athletic life as a toddler skating on Great Slave Lake, NWT. That led to figure skating and competition in two Arctic Winter Games. Then came her first experience in judging - as a figure skating judge. After judging the sport for 30 years she began serving as an arbitrator and mediator with the Canadian Center for Dispute Resolution for Sport and the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.

But that involvement didn’t mean physical inactivity. The judicial justice began distance running in law school, competing in 10k races, winter triathlons (running, skiing and skating) two more Arctic Winter Games, and marathons. She is also an avid hiker and mountain climber who has reached the summits of Elbrus (the highest mountain in Europe) and Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa). A 2012 attempt to reach the summit of Aconcagua (the highest mountain in South America) was frustrated by poor weather. Yoga, kayaking, running and cycling, including a recent 100 k charity ride, round out her current activities.

This judicial athlete says modestly, “I like to sweat”. And she doesn’t foresee slowing down: “I cycle with some very experienced riders who are over 80. They can certainly teach us younger folks about technique and finesse.”

Extreme judicial athletes like this may be a minority, but many Provincial Court judicial officers and staff participate in walks, runs or marathons to raise money for charities. To avoid any possibility that people might think they will get a benefit in court if they contribute to a cause supported by a judge, or will be prejudiced if they don’t contribute, judicial officers cannot be involved in fund-raising. They can only accept pledges from the small circle of other judges, family, and close friends who would never appear before them in court.

OK, OK. Some judges do play golf. It provides much-needed relaxation. But many keep fit with considerably more demanding and strenuous activities that contribute to their overall health and their ability to perform a challenging and stressful job.