Les Friesen

During his 16 years of competition in Masters track and field, Les Friesen dominated his age group in the sprints and horizontal jumps. He competed mainly in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 4x100m and long jump, and occasionally in the triple jump. From 1993 to 2008, Les finished on the podium about 95% of the time, including winning 60% of his events. During his track and field career, he won about 200 medals.

For the first six years, Les trained on his own and competed exclusively in the BC Seniors Games. But when the Tri-City Greyhounds was founded in 1999, he joined the club as one of the original members. From 1999 to 2008, Les competed in 9 BC Masters Championships and won 29 gold, 10 silver and 2 bronze medals. In 1999, in his very first BC Masters Championships, Les won gold in all of his events, the M60 100m, 200m, 400m, long and triple jumps. He would win 5 more gold medals at both the 2002 and 2003 BC Masters Championships. In the 2002 championships, Les broke BC Masters records in the M65 200m and as a member of the M65 4x100m relay team. And at the 2003 championships, he broke the M65 triple jump record. At age 68, in the 2005 championships, he won 4 more gold medals and broke his own M65 long jump record which he had set 3 years earlier.

In 2000, his only Canadian Masters Championships, Les won gold in the 200m and 4x400m, plus one silver and 3 bronze medals. He also competed in three international meets: the North American Championship, the Huntsman World Senior Games and the World Masters Games. At the North American Championship Les won bronze in both the M60 200m and 400m. He also garnered 2 bronze medals at the Huntsman World Senior Games in 2002 at St. George, Utah, breaking BC Masters records in the M65 100m (14.08), 200m (28.84) and 400m (1:05.45). And in 2005, at the World Masters Games in Edmonton, Les won another bronze in the 400m while breaking his own BC M65 record (1:05.04).

Les participated in 15 BC Seniors Games, missing only the 2006 Games when they were hosted by Abbotsford (ironically in his hometown). Unfortunately, he had an Achilles injury at the time, but was honoured to carry the flag into Abbotsford's Rotary Stadium for the opening ceremonies. Les had many outstanding results at the BC Seniors Games, winning at least 5 gold medals on five different occasions.

In the 2001 Surrey Games, he won 6 gold medals and would have broken BC M65 records in the 100m (13.6), 200 (28.6) and 400m (1:04.2), but unfortunately these races were hand timed (electronic timing had become compulsory for BC Masters records only a few months earlier). He also won 6 gold medals at the 2002 Prince George Games (where he broke BC records in the 200m and long jump), and at the 2005 Cowichan Games.

In total, Les broke 17 BC Masters records in the M55, M60, M65 and M70 age groups. He set records in all of his individual events: 100m, 200m, 400m, long jump and triple jump. He was also a member of relay teams that broke BC 4x100m records in the M55, M60, M65 and M70 age groups, and also the M60 4x400m. Three of these relay records: M55 4x100m (50.50), M70 4x100m (1:00.24) and the M60 4x400m were Canadian records.

Les was an extremely dedicated athlete who regularly made the long drive from Abbotsford to Coquitlam, where the Greyhounds held practices in those earlier years, and later to North Surrey Secondary School. For four years, Les also served as the Zone 3 track and field coordinator. After suffering from severe leg pain for a number of years (eventually resulting in hip replacement), in 2008 he retired from competition.

He was not only an outstanding athlete but was an outstanding individual as well. Being a man with high moral character, Les volunteered his time and services for several causes. For example, for ten years he went with the Mennonite (his church) Disaster Service for 2-3 months each year, to the southern United States to help repair and rebuild homes for those who had lost theirs due to disasters. He was always a true sportsman, respectful and encouraging to his fellow competitors. He is humble and has a great sense of humour. When asked why he was so successful, Les responded “I've found the secret to success. I run against old men.”

In 2020, Les was nominated for the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame. Due to Covid-19, Abbotsford has not finalized their decisions and their awards night has been postponed.