Queensland Masters Athletics see competitors up to 96 draw applause from the pitch

On a bush athletics track surrounded by fields of sugar cane, 96-year-old Maurice Dauphinet throws a javelin nine meters and the crowd gives him a standing roar.

His spear may have fallen 44 yards from the competition’s longest throw, but no one really cares.

After all, he is 66 on the youngest competitors.

Master athlete Maurice Dauphinet, 96, competes in the discus, shot put, hammer and javelin.(Provided: Casey Sims, Oceania Athletics)

Age was no barrier at the Queensland Masters Athletics Championships last week, where for the first time they were held alongside the Oceania Athletics Championships in Mackay in the north from Queensland.

Maurice was one of 200 competitors, aged 30 and over, who competed in events ranging from pole vault and hammer throw, to high jump and steeple chase.

His running wife Christiane, 91, was another.

They joined a masters athletic club 34 years ago in 1988 and have never looked back.

Bundaberg athletes Maurice Dauphinet, 96, with his wife Christiane Dauphinet, 91
Maurice Dauphinet of Bundaberg, 96, and his wife Christiane, 91, were the oldest competitors present.(Provided: Casey Sims, Oceania Athletics)

These days, running is out of the question for Maurice following hip surgery, but that hasn’t stopped him from competing in the shot put, discus, javelin and hammer throw.

The Bundaberg couple have been an inspiration to competitors, but said there was no secret to their long sporting career, just an active lifestyle that included athletic training on Sunday mornings, followed by a crescent and riddles from the diary.

But the Masters Athletic Championships is about more than winning medals and breaking records.

For some, it’s one of the few times a year they travel to meet like-minded people.

Christine Dauphinet, 91, hugs female 65-70 competitor Gillian Hayden after a race.
Women’s 65-70 competitor Gillian Hayden hugs Christine Dauphinet after a race.(Provided: Casey Sims, Oceania Athletics)

We’re “just having a good time”

For Gympie participant Karel McClintock, relationships are at the heart of her sport.

“The friendship and the friends you make along the way, just having a good time,” she said.

Karel McClintock, Gympie Pitcher
Master Gympie athlete Karel McClintock wins five gold medals at state championships.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Jessica Lamb)

But that doesn’t mean she’s pulling punches. She came away with five gold medals in three days after competing in the hammer throw, shot put, discus, javelin and over-60 shot put.

McClintock started doing masters track and field (a class for athletes over 30) in 1997 when his kids were at Little Athletics.

Gympie doesn’t have a masters club, so McClintock always trains with the Little Athletics on a Friday night.

From paddock to podium

There isn’t much of an athletics scene in Biloela, where Susan Tucker lives on ranching property.

Three athletes in green and gold stand on a podium with a field in the background and a flag
Athlete Biloela Susan Tucker [centre] with Victorian athlete Heather Lamb [left] and Vicki Townsend of the ACT.(Jessica Lamb, ABC Sunshine Coast)

Once a month she drives two hours to Rockhampton to practice, or she otherwise improvises at home.

The strategy worked. Tucker finished the competition with three gold, two silver and one bronze.

She said whether you win medals or not, masters athletics is for everyone.

“Go out and try it,” Tucker said.

Fighting for women’s events

Wilma Perkins didn’t let her 72 years around the sun stop her from soaring through the air – literally.

The Brisbane athlete was the oldest pole vaulter in the competition before throwing the javelin and the shot put.

Wilma Perkins, 72, athlete from Brisbane
Brisbane athlete Wilma Perkins, 72, competes in the pole vault, shot put and javelin throw.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Jessica Lamb)

Her first place on the podium will take her all the way to the World Masters Athletics Tampere 2022 in Finland at the end of the month.

But Perkins is best known for her off-track work organizing volunteers and competitions for more than 35 years in the sport.

“Over the years I’ve worked hard, fought hard, tried to get changes to improve women’s sport,” she said.

Perkins was the driving force behind several changes, such as smaller incremental increases for older women in field events like the high jump, and for allowing a false start in track races before a competitor not be disqualified.

Brisbane athlete Wilma Perkins, 72, competing in the javelin
Wilma Perkins throws the javelin during the Mackay Athletics event.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Jessica Lamb.)

Like many athletes, Perkins is all too used to seeing her personal bests drop every year as her body ages.

“The masters work in five-year age brackets…so every five years you can set new goals, have a rebirth, and start all over again,” she said.

“Who wants to be 49 and race against younger people when you can be 50 and be the youngest?”

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