Competing at 86 about giving it 'a go'

Alistair Mackay sets a New Zealand record in the high jump at the Masters Games yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Alistair Mackay sets a New Zealand record in the high jump at the Masters Games yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Gold medals are not important to retired Southland sheep and beef farmer Alistair Mackay.

Mackay (86) has won 158 gold medals at Masters Games since he started competing in 1998 and they are tucked away out of sight in a wardrobe at his home in Invercargill.

''To compete and finish the event is what is important to me,'' he said after adding six more gold medals to his collection, in the 85 to 89 age grade at the Caledonian Ground, in Dunedin, yesterday.

He won the 200m, 400m and shot put and set New Zealand records in the 100m (18.90sec), high jump (1m) and long jump (2.59m).

''When I first started I was convinced that I was going to come last in the 100m,'' Mackay said.

''I got the shock of my life when I was in the lead.''

He retired from his Northern Southland sheep and beef farm at Kapuka South in 1987 and started competing in Masters Games sport at the age of 70 in 1998.

His secret is simple. He has kept active and does aerobics three times a week at the Invercargill YMCA and swims 30 laps at the Splash Palace pool three times a week.

He has good advice for those contemplating following his example.

''Give it a go,'' he said.

''Even if you're not winning, you're still mixing with others. It doesn't matter where you finish. By joining in you support each other.''

Mackay is competing in five swimming races over the next three days and is likely to

add more gold medals to his tally.

Mackay was the oldest male athlete competing in athletics yesterday but he is five years younger than the oldest female athlete, Pauline Purser (91).

Purser, from Tauranga, did not set any records but won four gold medals in the throwing events: javelin (6.83m), hammer throw (12.38m), shot put (3.71m) and discus (8.43m).

This was remarkable considering she has had two hip replacements and a broken pelvis.

Purser was a champion ballroom dancer until 1984 but has been restricted to the throwing events since her operations.

''I just do my best. I was never tempted to give up,'' she said.

''I love the hammer throw and get a real kick out of it.''