'Always there with a high-five

Masters Games ambassador Alison Shanks helps provide some inspiration to her grandfather, Watson...
Masters Games ambassador Alison Shanks helps provide some inspiration to her grandfather, Watson Barkman, at Chisholm Links yesterday. Photo by gerard O'Brien.

The sight of her grandfather's Masters Games bronze medal helped light a fire inside Alison Shanks.

The champion track cyclist was 11 at the time and still at Tahuna Normal Intermediate.

But she remembers looking at the medal Watson Barkman won and feeling inspired to claim her own some day.

We know how that worked out for her. Her rapid rise from provincial netball to world champion pursuit cyclist and Commonwealth Games gold medallist was intoxicating.

Shanks has since retired from the sport but remains an inspiration in her role as Masters Games ambassador.

And the 33-year-old was on hand to high-five her grandfather yesterday shortly after he teed off at Chisholm Links.

"He is always there with a high-five - that's his trademark,'' Shanks said.

Barkman was there waiting with a high-five and a giant golden Easter egg when Shanks returned to Dunedin having won her first world title in 2009.

"The whole family has been a great support and I guess that is what allows you to succeed. You can't do it by yourself and Grandad has been a huge supporter.

"And he is just so active,'' she said watching the 86-year-old stride down the first hole.

"It is inspirational. Watching him I think, shivers, I better get off my butt and get out there and get into some things.

"That is the beauty of sport. It helps keep you young.''

Since that first bronze in 1994, Barkman has gone on to win a bunch of medals including three gold medals.

That is the same number of golds Shanks won during her career and he enjoys teasing his granddaughter about that.

Barkman, who started golfing in 1960, was competing in the two-ball, best-ball competition with his brother, Colin.

Former Otago and Highlanders coach Tony Gilbert was the principal at Tahuna Normal Intermediate when Shanks was that sparkly eyed 11-year-old.

Now, they are both ambassadors for the Masters Games.

"It is funny how life goes full circle,'' Shanks said while watching her grandfather chip on to the green.

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