SUNDRE — A local couple who originally met through their shared passion for playing darts recently brought home some medals from the Alberta 55 Plus 2022 Winter Games in Edmonton.
Betty Ann Fountain, the municipality’s senior development officer, and her retired partner Dave Formstone were in Alberta’s capital from April 7-10 for the Games’ entire duration, taking in the opening and closing ceremonies and everything in between.
Fountain won silver in the 65-plus women singles category while Formstone came back with gold in the 65-plus men singles category.
“It was really well done,” Fountain said about the games, adding the organizing committee put together a great event from start to finish.
“We had a very experienced dart player running the shoot for us, so that really helped,” she said during an interview at the town council chamber accompanied by Formstone.
There was representation from pretty well all of the eight zones in the province, she said, adding they represented Zone 2 as well as Sundre.
“The best part of all of this, is the social side. Yes, it’s competitive. But it’s the social side. We got to see players — friends — that we haven’t seen since 2018,” she said. “You meet people who become life-long friends, and you have the darts in common.”
Formstone agreed and added players demonstrate good sportsmanship despite that competitive drive.
“Nobody likes to lose,” said Formstone. “But we don’t have any so-called bad losers, you know? At the end of the game, we shake hands and we go and have a beer.”
And sometimes, the friendships forged through competition flourish into something much more. In their case, their shared love of darts not only led the couple to cross paths at a competition but eventually to share their lives.
“We met at the Winter Games in 2015 in Lethbridge,” said Fountain, adding they competed the following year in the Canada Games that in 2016 were hosted in Brampton, Ontario.
“When we met, we discovered we had people in common — people that we’ve played with or against out of Edmonton or say Calgary — and that led to a conversation, which led to other conversations and seven years later, here we are.”
In 2018, the couple competed at the Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games that at the time were hosted in High Prairie, but were unable to get out to New Brunswick for the Canada Games, she said.
“That was the last time Canada Games have been held for the plus 55, because the next set of games would have been 2020, and you know what happened in 2020,” she said.
So the return of the Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games was extremely important not only for the social aspect, but also from the perspective of finally being able to get back into the competitive dart field, she said.
“They weren’t expecting 1,100-plus participants in Edmonton,” she said, adding that total comprised all of the other events as well, which included badminton, bowling, curling, hockey, pickle ball, scrabble, snooker, art and writing.
That turnout was up from the last Games when between 900 to 1,000 people participated, she said.
Although the upcoming Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games won’t feature darts among the competitions, she said the Canada 55+ Games scheduled from August 22-26 in Kamloops, B.C., will.
“We definitely are going,” said Fountain.
“What we’ve just done now, qualifies us to participate in the national games, in Canada,” added Formstone. “You have to finish either gold or silver to qualify to go.”
Medal finalists at the Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games were determined not by championship matches but rather by a total tally of points following 21 round robin games. This time around, participants unexpectedly found themselves getting to play even more.
“They decided because we had finished so early, that we would do the same again,” said Formstone. “So, we played the whole series twice. Instead of 21 games, you played 42 games,”
While they each played individually in their respective singles categories in Edmonton, the couple anticipates playing as a mixed doubles team at the Canada Games.
Both were thrilled just for the opportunity to compete in public after a couple of years of playing darts in the confines of home throughout the pandemic.
“COVID cancelled everything,” said Fountain, adding they’ve been unable to play with their mixed, four-person team out of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 in Ponoka.
“We haven’t seen the rest of our team for over two years,” said Formstone.
“Because of COVID, we are the reigning senior champs there, too,” said Fountain. “Hopefully this fall, we get back into the (Royal Canadian) Legion competitive darts.”
Their medals from the games in Edmonton are the latest in a growing collection that includes badges awarded by the Royal Canadian Legion league.
“What I plan to do with these medals, is I’ll gather them all and I’d like to mount them in shadow box,” said Fountain.
That might have to be a sizeable box as the couple have every intention of continuing to compete.
“As long as we can,” said Fountain, adding they were proud to represent Zone 2 and Sundre.
Star crossed paths
Both Fountain and Formstone had been playing darts for many years before their passion for the sport eventually brought them together.
“I’ve been playing darts since I was a teenager,” said Formstone, who is originally from England where “every pub has a dart room.”
Before eventually relocating to Canada in 1973, which his sister already called home, his brother-in-law told him people didn’t play darts in Canada.
“So, when I came to Canada, I didn’t even look for darts,” he said. “I never played darts for 13 years.”
As fate would have it, a worker with English roots who transferred from Toronto to a shop Formstone was running in Edmonton at the time started bringing up the subject of playing darts.
“I said, ‘Well, they don’t play darts here,’ and he says, ‘What do you mean? They got three big leagues here in Edmonton!’” Formstone said with a laugh.
So by the mid-1980s, he was getting back in the groove.
“I took two months to get back close to where I used to be,” he said.
For her part, Fountain was at a pub in Calgary back in the 1980s when she bumped into an old friend who offered to introduce her to the game, which up until that point she had never played before.
Fountain later spent some time living in Strathmore where she met some good players through the community’s Royal Canadian Legion league and went on to join a four-person team who she played with for about 10 years travelling all over Alberta.
“I also tried my hand at the competitive darts, kind of like semi-professional, where you would travel out of province to play,” she said.
However, she decided after a couple of years that wasn’t quite what she aspired to do.
“But I still enjoy the competitiveness of the game at a different level. So, instead of trying to win money, I’m winning medals or badges and bragging rights,” she said with a chuckle.