When it comes to athletes who inspire, Dunedin was recently overrun with thousands of them, taking part in the country’s largest sporting event.
The annual Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games attracted an awesome array of athletes – 4500 of them in fact. While the majority were aged between 40-60 years, the diversity of age groups involved was truly impressive.
More than 400 competitors were aged over 70, with 12 over 80, and the oldest competitor (90) competing in the 5k walk – proof that age is no barrier to getting involved and participating in sports and activities.
Golf attracted the eldest male competitor who was 88. May Hill (87) from Auckland took home six gold medals from the swimming pool and Arthur Dunkley (83) from Nelson hauled in eight gold medals and one silver from various track and field events.
2018 Games manager, Vicki Kestila says, “Inspiration is what the Games is about, people inspiring others to be active, to test themselves, to embrace life to the fullest.
“Our competitors are invariably self-starters with volumes of energy, drive and commitment. Some are very competitive, others enjoy social competition and some simply want to test themselves.”
With 59 different sporting events to choose from, it’s no surprise that team sports were the most popular – netball boasted 59 teams and football attracted 48 teams.
New events this year included the triple stadium stair challenge, walking netball and beach volleyball. Croquet, indoor and outdoor bowls, petanque, and tennis were also popular.
Fresh off the squash courts, Eddie Delahunty (83) and John Scully (76) summed up why they play. Their comments reflect a common positive outlook held by many older competitors at the Games.
“It’s all about just about getting the ball back legally. I love it, if I keep waking up, I’ll keep playing,” says John.
Eddie’s motto is “never stop or you won’t be able to start again.”
While the medals and success were definitely icing on the cake, much of the appeal of the Games is in the camaraderie, the sense of involvement and fun, and the opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life.
The 2019 New Zealand Masters Games are being held in Whanganui. For a list of sports available and how to get involved, visit nzmg.com
Game, Set, Match
With more than six decades enjoying the game of tennis, Murray Facer is still going strong.
The 74 year old travelled from Timaru to compete at the recent Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin – on the tennis court, of course.
No stranger to the competitive atmosphere, this is the sixth New Zealand Masters Games he’s competed in.
“I love it, you play some good tennis, you meet good people, and even some people whose names I’ve forgotten!
“For me it’s also a chance to catch up with family as I stay here with my brother.
“Tennis is a sport that can keep you on your toes from when you’re a teenager to well into your seventies.”
Murray was born in Dunedin and has played tennis since he was a youngster.
“I often say, 6o years ago I would have got that shot!”
Murray belongs to the Highfield Tennis Club in Timaru, where he plays once a week. A life member of the club, he says he’s been ‘recycled into a coach’.
Some of the tennis at the Games was played at the Edgar Centre, a venue Murray enjoys.
”It’s unusual to play tennis indoors. I’m used to looking up and seeing the blue sky but in Dunedin at the Edgar Centre it’s rafters and lights. It’s quite unique. They are lovely courts to play on.”
A growing interest in petanque
Judith Waters (51) from Benhar and Karen Rawley (55) from Darfield are keen to promote interest in the sport of petanque. The pair meets up every two years at the New Zealand Masters Games, to play Twilight Petanque.
This year they took their shared interest a step further and challenged themselves by entering the competitive Open Petanque division.
Their progression from the social game to the competitive is a familiar story to local Otago petanque stalwart Nadine Simpson.
“Since 1998 when Twilight Petanque was introduced to the Masters Games, many of the social players loved the game so much that they became regular players in local clubs.
“In fact, two Dunedin petanque clubs, the Dunedin City Club and the Taieri Club have both been formed by players who were introduced to the sport at the Games.”
Judith and Karen won their first silver medal at the Twilight Petanque, but had a bit of a rough start to the open competition, with three losses in a row – but Judith’s positive attitude won out and she said they weren’t disheartened.
“We are self-taught and we have got a lot to learn as we were playing against very experienced players. We like to think we’ve have had some successes within each game. Everyone has been very helpful and supportive. It’s very relaxing, we enjoyed the social environment.”
New Zealand record for 87yo swimmer
Swimmer May Hill blazed an impressive trail in the pool at the recent Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games. The 87-year-old was no one-race wonder either.
She swam in the 50 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres in both freestyle and backstroke; taking the gold medal in each of these events in the 85+ category.
She also set a New Zealand record for the 85+ 200 metre backstroke. May’s new time of 7:37.01 was a solid cut ahead of the previous record of 7:42.44.
“I treated the first few events as warm-ups and by the time I got to the 200 metres backstroke I went for it,” says May.
“Initially I was blinded by the sun in my eyes and kept crashing into the ropes, so I knew I needed to speed up in the last length.”
May has been attending the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin since she took up swimming in 2000.
She found that her favourite sport badminton was too hard on her body and decided swimming was still something she could do. She joined the Manakau Masters Swimming Club, where she swims every second day.
She says she loves the time she spends in Dunedin and plans to come back for more in 2020.