McBride wins triple crown
St. Albert racquetball player is 75-plus singles' champion at U.S. Open, senior worlds and nationals
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 19, 2013 06:00 am
A 75-year-old St. Albertan is the king of the court after winning the triple crown of racquetball.
The third jewel for Jack McBride was the 75-plus singles’ title at the recent U.S. Open in Minnesota after victorious performances in the same event at the IRF World Senior Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. and in 70-plus and 75-plus singles at nationals in Langley, B.C.
“I’m extremely elated because I set a goal (in January) to win these three championships and I worked hard preparing, playing, drilling and doing workouts. I was prepared,” said McBride, prior to leaving Thursday for the world junior championship in Bolivia in his role as president of Racquetball Canada.
“There is really nothing else I can achieve above that. I won the three most important championships I can win and I guess the only other thing is to do it again.”
McBride didn’t lose a match during his amazing run.
“Fortunately I play with a great group of guys. Obviously they’re very much younger – they’re in their 50s and 60s and good players – and there is one in particular that I use as a stepping-stone and that’s Brad Kelly from St. Albert. He’s about 53 and a very good player who makes me work my butt off when we play. When I want to get ready for a tournament I start playing him and normally he’s beating me pretty good, maybe 15-5 or 15-6, until I get to the point where I’m beating him and then I know I’m ready for the tournament. It’s my measuring stick. I really appreciate Brad’s assistance.”
At the U.S. Open, McBride was seeded fifth out of six players in the round robin and on the opening day knocked off the top two seeds, including a marathon tiebreaker against the No. 1 seed in the evening draw.
“I won it on the seventh serve so we went back and forth. Had he won I would have not achieved the triple crown – Canadians, U.S. and Worlds – and as far as I know it’s never been done in Canada, period,” said the vice-president of the North American International Racquetball Federation.
It was McBride’s first appearance at the U.S. Open.
“When I won the worlds I found that the most satisfying, but when I won the U.S. Open it was even more satisfying in that it was a much tougher event,” said the great-grandfather. “There was 14 countries in the world tournament but the U.S. Open is where the top players show up. The gentleman that I played, the No. 1 seed, has won the U.S. Open in this age bracket three times and he has won the U.S. open eight times and he was the U.S. player of the year last year and I had to beat him.”
McBride also added his first world singles championships in his first attempt to go with three triumphs in mixed and doubles.
After worlds in late August, McBride maintained his rigorous training regime of daily workouts and hard-fought matches with Kelly to complete the triple crown.
“I have a workout system that I just use for myself. While I’m watching TV and a commercial would come on I will lie down on the floor and do 150 sit-ups and 50 push-ups and I do that daily. I also have a sprint system that I use in the courts and then I do footwork drills in the courts and, of course, lots of playing,” said the retired warrant officer in the Canadian army.
“At my age I find it difficult in singles playing these young bucks. It’s really hard on the body but when I go over to these tournaments I have to prepare. I don’t play a lot of singles, I prefer doubles, but I get ready by playing these better players, and they’re good players, and it makes me work out and gets me fit.
“That’s one thing I’ve noticed in my play. The big advantage that I had in all of these tournaments was my fitness and my mobility. I did 25 years in the military as a physical training instructor and I’ve stayed at it.”
At worlds McBride teamed up with his wife, Marion, to win the 70-plus mixed division and at the U.S. Open they placed third in the mixed doubles C division.
Marion, 73, was also crowned the U.S. Open champion in 70-plus women’s singles and at worlds finished third in 70-plus singles.
“She played very well. I was very proud of her,” said McBride of his wife, who got him on the racquetball bandwagon with a membership to a new racquetball club in Victoria where they lived before moving to St. Albert.
In April the McBrides received Games Legacy Award Programming funding from the City of St. Albert for their racquetball endeavours.
“Before worlds I joked that we were going as Mr. and Mrs. but we might come back as Mr. and Ms. because we never play together. I call that divorce city,” McBride said with a hearty laugh.
A long list of accomplishments for the Winnipeg-born McBride includes 10 Canadian singles’ championships in various age divisions, starting in the 45-plus division, and five doubles titles.
“Even though (in June) I did win the 75-plus this year in Canada I played the 70 just so I would have more games and I won that too.”
Like a fine wine, McBride is getting better with age.
“The advantage I have is playing these younger people in our club keeps me fit. It’s an advantage when I go away playing people my own age because the game slows down to a real comfortable pace for me,” said McBride, who plays out of the Kinsmen facility in downtown Edmonton after several years at the Mayfield Inn & Suites Athletic Club before it was recently torn down. “It’s a faster game playing them and because they hit a lot harder I have to move a lot faster. When I get into my age bracket the ball slows down and its much easier for me to get to it and of course my mobility really helps.”
The muscular right-hander is more finesse than power on the court.
“I put the ball into the corners and I shoot soft. In other words I'm a control player. I can control the ball.”
McBride, who turns 76 next month, is not ready to hang up his racket and hopes to play into his eighties.
“It keeps me healthy and I just tell people my body will let me know when it’s time to quit, either that or my wife,” said McBride, who has been sponsored by the E-Force racquetball company for 15 years.
McBride’s motto on the court is simple.
“Anyone can win when they’re hot, but a champion will win when he’s not and I firmly believe in that,” he said of the comment attributed to a former opponent whose daughter was a Canadian champion at the time. “If you think yourself as a champion and you want to be a champion then you’ve got to play the best racquetball you can play even if you’re not playing good.”