The Masters at Perth
I have been astounded and inspired the last two weeks. The World Masters Athletics Championships in Perth Australia showed what the human body and spirit is capable of. Do view the following video, especially the inspirational Bill Collins of the USA. Listen to his story: Bill Collins of the USA
The championship event attracted four thousand athletes from more than ninety countries. The atmosphere was festive and the event a celebration of ability at any age. Everywhere there was elated exuberance at the privilege of being part of the competition. Many achieved their personal best (author included) and every so now and then a new world record was announced (author definitely excluded). In the heat of up to forty degrees Celsius, they ran, threw, jumped and hurdled.
I saw a ninety year old Peruvian man win his sprinting event and then dance away in front of a music stage only minutes after he completed his run. Many athletes entered three events making qualifying rounds and finals – six days of grueling competition. There was a seventy year old man who ran his long distance event barefoot. A few athletes stumbled and fell before the end post – all stood up to finish the race.
The oldest male competitor at ninety seven finished his distance run by hobbling the last few hundred meters to applause I seldom hear. The oldest lady in the event won the ladies ninety five plus age group shot put. Asked what her secret to longevity is, she replied: “Exercise and eat lots of meat and potatoes”. I am following her dietary advice happily.
It was my first time in this remote part of the world and I
had the chance to see some of the surrounding areas. Western Australia is two and a half million
square kilometers –a square kilometer for every person living there. The
nearest city of significance to Perth is Adelaide, a mere three thousand
kilometers by road.
This out of the way and down under part of the world is definitely worth visiting. The beauty of the white beaches, the tall trees of the woods, the blindingly bright sun, the charmingly friendly Aussies and the expanse of Australia is left a firm imprint on me. Here, space, distance and natural beauty takes on new dimensions. A place to slow down, take in and absorb the vastness.
The Athletics wonderment never stopped. Men and women in their sixties and seventies clocked times that much younger athletes would envy. As I prepared to go into my qualifying round, behind me sat five men aged eighty and higher waiting for their event. “What are you competing in?’ I asked them. “We are doing pole vault” came a calm reply. "No way!", I thought. A while later they all trundled off to the track to jump as high as they can while heaving themselves off a fiber pole. Now I had really seen it all.
As for myself - happy to say I took fifth place in the finals of my long jump event, totally unexpected and much better than what I had aimed and hoped for. The photo above is me in full flight during the final event.
Outwardly a competitive leap; inwardly a jump of joy.
Photo Credits: Perth Masters Athletics Facebook Page
Main Image: LeRoy Neiman