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73-year-old Richmond pickleball player wins silver in regional tournament

‘I’m living my dream life right now,’ says John Yagi

John Yagi has shown it’s never too late to play sports and be on a podium.

The 73-year-old Richmond BC Pickleball Association member and his 71-year-old partner James Min brought home a silver medal from the Super Senior Slam Pickleball Tournament in Surrey in the 70-plus age group last month.

“It was so much fun, so enjoyable, and great meeting those people as well… James’ grandkids were there watching and cheering for him,” said Yagi.

“To be in the gold medal match was a really great experience for me. That’s what we’re training for.”

Yagi, a semi-retired pharmacist who still practices once a week, came across pickleball five years ago and fell in love with the sport.

“Because I played too much competitive tennis, my right rotator cuff was very sore and inflamed, so I didn’t play any sports for years, until pickleball,” recalled Yagi.

“Pickleball is much easier on the joints and on the older or aging body like mine. That’s why some people get the perception that pickleball is for older people, but it’s not anymore.”

Yagi said what really attracted him is the social aspect of the sport.

“You meet a lot of different people playing pickleball. It’s a social sport. That’s the biggest benefit, because I was actually a loner, a very private, lonely person,” he said.

Yagi said playing pickleball has changed his life as he has met so many friends through the sport – he even became a certified pickleball coach and is busy teaching pickleball across Metro Vancouver multiple days a week.

Pickleball, a game played on a small court using paddles and wiffle ball, keeps Yagi connected with people both young and old, and is a “major factor in my happiness in just a regular life.”

“Age doesn’t really matter. It’s just social communications, social interactions with every age group,” said Yagi.

“I would say to anyone at any age, to enjoy life to the fullest. I’m living my dream life in terms of work, sports…with all the friends I have in pickleball.

“My goal is to be playing pickleball, be physically, mentally, socially active when I’m in my 90s.”