How Willy made splash in retirement

Published 12:00pm 10 September 2022

How Willy made splash in retirement
Words by Nick Crockford

Age has been no barrier in the sporting career of breast cancer survivor Wilhelmina (Willy) Kranenburg, from Samford.

Now 83, she paddled into a senior squad of cancer survivors to form the ‘Caviar and Champagne’ dragon boat paddling team.

Inspired by a young mum and fellow breast cancer fighter in late 2007, joined a group of cancer survivors, training and participating all over Australia and the world.

Initially shy about demands of the sport, which has groups of eight to 20 paddling between 200-2000 metres, Willy, who also had a hip replacement, fell in love with it.

“I didn’t think I would be able to try dragon boating, because of my age, but my friends and husband told me that I should try it, so I did,” she said.

How Willy made splash in retirement

“I tried paddling for the first time when I was 68 and I got lost in it. I absolutely loved it.”

Willy went on to enjoy many dragon boating events from Tin Can Bay to Italy and Canada.

Although she no longer participates in paddling Willy is still actively involved and regularly catches up with her fellow dragon boaters.

“A group of us made a pact we would continue paddling until we reached 80, so that’s what we did,” Willy said.

“There are still ladies paddling well into their 80s but I stopped at that time after 12 years.

How Willy made splash in retirement

“The last time I paddled was in Florence under the Ponte Vecchio while singing Waltzing Matilda. It was amazing.

“I’m still looking forward to joining the ladies on upcoming trips. We’re going to New Zealand next.”

Born in The Netherlands in 1938, Willy and her husband moved to Australia where she was a teacher, before retiring in 2005 as a kindergarten teacher one year after her diagnosis.

Willy now lives at Reside Communities’ Samford Grove retirement village in Samford Village after losing her husband in 2016.

Samford Grove Village Manager Bronwyn O’Brien said: “Willy’s story and determination is so inspiring to everyone at Samford Grove."

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