By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Ponoka News
One part tennis, another part table tennis, played on a court about the size of a badminton court, the Pickleball National Championships were held in Red Deer Aug. 10 to 15.
According to Tara Smith, a gold medal winning pickleball player from Ponoka, around 10 teams descended on Red Deer to challenge for national champion.
“It’s the first time that Red Deer had (the finals),” said Smith.
Smith and her partner, Christina Wiancko, are both members of the Ponoka Picklers Pickleball Club, and have been playing the sport alongside each other for several years before partnering up for competition around six months ago.
“I fell in love with the sport,” said Wiancko.
“I kept at it, playing twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.”
Entering competition, players can register for a variety of options, from singles to mixed double play. Teams are separated by bracket, which starts at 2.5, and increases by 0.5 up to a maximum of 5.0, where the top competitors are placed.
Smith and Wiancko won gold in the 3.0 bracket women’s doubles tournament.
Pickleball is truly an international sport, with tournaments taking place in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and Australia throughout the year, although Wiancko isn’t sure that they will be able to make those trips. At least not yet.
“At this point, we are not at the place in our life to go out of Canada,” said Wiancko.
As for what’s next with the pair, it’s returning to the Ponoka Picklers and practicing the game they love, getting ready for, hopefully, more tournaments in 2022.
The Ponoka Picklers meet Monday and Thursday nights at 6 p.m. year-round. During the summer, the club meets at the Ponoka tennis courts.
Prior to COVID-19, the club met at the Ponoka school gymnasium during the winter; however, due to the ever-changing nature of the ongoing pandemic, plans for this fall and winter have yet to be finalized. New members are always welcome.
“I would say, absolutely get into the sport,” said Smith.
“It’s very fun to get into, and it’s an easy sport to learn.”