14th Oceania Masters Athletes Championships
By Helen Tobin
While New Zealand was hidden under a long white cloud plus plenty of rain and storms, a team of master’s athletes were in tropical north Queensland basking in sunshine and competing at the 14th Oceania Masters Championships. Nearly five hundred athletes representing ten Pacific nations come together in Townsville for full track and field, road walks, half marathon and 8km cross country events held over six days of competition. Top class track facilities and interesting, often scenic non stadia courses could only have been inspirational to the competitors. Coming from the New Zealand winter to the clear sunny tropics was an added bonus for competitors.
The NZL team of 140 athletes traveled to compete at this Oceania Masters event held every two years. The NZL team took part in the full range of competition from the age 30 and over with many familiar entrants along with a pleasing number of first timers at international level.
Whilst all competitors were self selected and self funded there were as usual a number who were already well known nationally and internationally on the master’s circuit. Ron Robertson of Gisborne made a welcome return to international competition contesting the M65-69 grade and he didn’t disappoint with his performances. Not only did he win the 5000m and 8km cross country race, he set a new world age group record in the 2000m steeplechase in 7:18.10 stamping his mark competing internationally for the first time in this age group and recording a whopping 103.55% on the age graded tables.
Tauranga masters athlete Eric de Latour was the star in the middle distance races taking out four gold medals in the M85-89 grade from his performances in the 800m, 1500m, 5000m and the 8km cross country race. In each event he finished leaving a number from much younger age groups in his wake and, looking at the age grade tables in the 5000m event, his 27:04.22 gave him 98.43% when age graded.
The sprint events had Auckland’s Margaret Peters, already a proven world champion, enjoying success in her specialist 100m and 200m events, recording 10.93 and 34.14 respectively in the W70 age group. Margaret was another high scorer on the age grade tables with 96.07% and 94.49% respectively.
Extra colour was added to the competition with New Zealand Olympians enjoying last minute training before Beijing competing alongside the master’s athletes. To have had Valerie Vili or Stuart Farquhar in your competition could have only been inspirational.
At the General Assembly meeting the following were elected for the next two year term of office:
President: Wilma Perkins (AUS)
Vice President: David Lobb (COC)
Secretary: Bob Schickert (AUS)
Treasurer: Rob McGregor (NZL)
Council: Bob Banens (AUS), Jim Tobin (NZL), Jim Blair (NZL), Ray Green (AUS), and Lynne Schickert (AUS).
At this meeting New Zealand successfully bid to host the 2012 championships and these will be held in Tauranga. In two years time the 15th Oceania Masters Athletes Championships will be held in Tahiti and there are early indications of much interest from New Zealand indicating that the team traveling will be of a good size.