The oldest athlete among the smallest contingent at the BC 55+ Games is determined to win a gold medal in golf. If he does, that will be No. 9 for Lloyd Hanberg.

The 86-year-old retired firefighter from Tumbler Ridge has competed in the past 13 Games, but this year he’ll tee off in a brand new age category for golfers — 85 and up.

“There were so many of us over 80 at the Games last year in Kimberly-Cranbrook that it was hard for the organizers to accommodate everybody in our age group. ... Now, all of us over 85 have our own category," Hanberg said Tuesday as he helped the first of the 66 other registered competitors from Zone 12, encompassing northern communities such as Fort Nelson and Dawson Creek, get their Kelowna Games accreditation.

More than 4,300 senior athletes will compete in 32 sports at the four-day Games, which are estimated to contribute $3 million to Kelowna’s economy.

With only a few paid staff, the organization that puts on the Games depends on a small army of volunteers, many of whom were out in force in blue shirts at the CNC on Gordon Drive assisting athletes with accreditation.

Check-ins at past Games have seen bottlenecks, with long lines of increasingly cranky competitors waiting for their lanyards, but everything seemed to be going well at the CNC.

“This is a wonderful building to use as the accreditation centre, it’s so spacious,” said Cindy Simpson, president of the BC Seniors Games Society.

Not surprisingly, the Okanagan contingent boasts the biggest number of Games competitors, accounting for one-quarter of the total.

Fifteen minutes after check-in began, only a few of the Zone 12 athletes had arrived.

“It’s a two-day drive for most of our team, so a lot of them haven't arrived yet,” director Annette Reeder said.

Given their small numbers, the northerners aren’t under any illusions about winning the medal table at the Games, she said.

“But that’s not really what it’s about anyway,” Reeder said. “It’s about competing, making new friends, meeting old friends, keeping active and staying healthy.”

All well and good, but there's already some grumbling among the golfers aged 75 and up that they’ve been bumped from the prestigious Bear and Quail course to the much less glamorous city-owned Shadow Ridge next to the airport. Unexpectedly high registration numbers forced the venue switch.

But for his part, Hanberg is still determined to come out on top of his class.

“I want to win because the top finishers get an automatic entry to the 2020 Canada (55+) Games next year in Kamloops,” Hanberg said. “That’s my goal.”