Rhoda’s zest for life

EVER thought to try out a new sport or activity but backed out because of second thoughts?

Meet Rhoda Eaves. At 95, Rhoda Eaves nee Wurtele is not letting anything stand in her way of living life the way she did in her 20s.

This year she completed another tandem skydive jump in Fiji, jumping from 14,000 feet above Malolo Lailai Island.

And son John Eaves, a champion skier himself, says he got his good genes from his mother.

“This is her fourth time jumping here and she loves it,” he says.

“She calls it her ‘happy place’, where time stands still and she flies like a bird. All this thanks to Sky Dive Fiji.”

Rhoda is a twin. Both she and her sister Rhona live in Montreal, Canada. The Wurtele sisters began snow skiing at the age of five and have gone on to become famous and highly accomplished alpine racing skiers.

They won almost every event in North America in the early 1940s and represented Canada at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Olympics. Sports played a great role in the lives of both twins, with the duo engaging in skiing and ice hockey during the winter and switching to swimming, baseball, basketball and golf in the summer.

They were later married in a joint ceremony on the same day in Canada. After she stopped competitive ski racing, Rhoda continued to teach and coach thousands of children in skiing while raising her own family.

“We started at five or six years old,” she says.

“We tried climbing trees, playing hockey, baseball. We challenged each other as twins. Swimming was the first love.

“We competed eventually on a national level in the Dominion Championships, winning swimming and diving events. Rhoda was asked to compete for Canada in the Commonwealth Games in track and field in the early ’50s but declined due to the arrival of her first child, David.”

Competing in the Winter Olympics remains one of the best memories of her life.

“Yes, most certainly, the Winter Olympics were amazing. However, we had bad luck in 1948 in St Moritz and in 1952 in Oslo.”

The twins went on to win most of the big races in America, including the Rich Cup in Aspen and the Harriman Cup in Sun Valley. Rhoda also won the US Nationals in Downhill.

She visited Fiji about six years ago to visit her son John at Musket Cove on Malolo Lailai Island.

“I love the Fijian people. They smile a lot.

“I have gone tandem (skydiving) about four or five times now with Sky Dive Fiji. The first time was a real thrill, but over time is just as good. I have a smile on my face from start to finish. Sky Dive Fiji is very professional and I always feel safe with them.

“Jumping out of a plane 14,000ft above Malolo Lailai Island, you can see for miles! The thrill of flying is like nothing else.

“I wasn’t nervous. Just so excited about it, what a thrill! Surely, I’d love to do it again.”

She says she is fortunate to have grown up with a twin.

“We were fortunate as kids to do everything together, even marriage. We love to try things and family is very important.

“Never give up, don’t back down. There is no real secret, just believe in yourself.”

She has never lost her love of the outdoors and physical activity.

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