When a teacher called Mr Douglas at Kowhai Intermediate took a skinny kid called George Pearce under his wing, encouraging him to take part in sports, he could not have known that George would still remember him, and still be running, at the age of 85.
The teacher’s mentoring and support was a turning point for George, who had a difficult home life and now says that sport “made me what I am”.
In April he will compete in the 5000m and 10,000m events at the World Masters Games in Auckland.
There are currently more than 40 athletes over the age of 80 registered to take part in the Games, with 11 registered in George’s age group for the 5000m and 10,000m.
George has not been a runner all his life; after success in school events he didn’t take up running again until his late 40s. In the intervening years he married Gaynor, raised a family and had a successful career in the construction industry.
He says he began running after completing the solo build of his family home, joining Titirangi Joggers to keep fit. Soon he was entering races in the 50 plus category and notched up wins in many of the country’s major marathons and events. He could complete a marathon in just over three hours, and half marathons in around 1:20.
George expects that his knee replacement will slow him up a bit, but he has been training six days a week to give the World Masters Games his best shot.
“I’m going along, whether I do well or I don’t,” George says. “But I’d rather win – that’s what athletes are like, especially when you’ve won before. It’s my chance to be the best in the world.”
Hibiscus Matters’ graphic designer Lorry McCarthy, who plays hockey for Mahurangi Hockey Club, is taking part in the World Masters Games. Her team is predominantly made up of players from the Hibiscus Dairy Flat Hockey Club and most are in their forties. Lorry says she’s looking forward to the Games themselves – as well as competing, she hopes to watch other Coasties in various sports.
Games facts and figures
- The World Masters Games is the largest event NZ has hosted since the 2011 Rugby World Cup and takes place April 21-30 at 48 venues (most in Auckland)
- Registration is open to anyone in the Masters age bracket in the 28 sports that are included. More than 17,500 people have registered so far
- Some will hone their skills at the NZ Masters Games, which start this week in Whanganui
- The oldest registered athlete, Man Kaur of India, will be 101 when she competes. Her son (aged 75) is also competing
- Approximately half the participants are expected to come from overseas
- This is the first time NZ will host the Games, which were first held in 1985 in Canada
- Government ($11m) and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development ($11.75m) invested approximately two thirds of the $35.85 million required to stage the event with the remainder coming from registration fees ($8.5 million) and sponsorship ($4.6 million)
- Registration for the World Masters Games closes on March 3. Info: www.worldmastersgames2017.co.nz or Facebook