Thursday, January 03, 2008

NZ Grandmother jumps further

I just love these stories of people who live long and active lives and make the most of every moment. It is even better when they are New Zealanders - yet again NZ holds the record!

I know that when a person gets to their final day of reckoning the first question they will be asked won't be 'do you hold any athletics records'. But when I feel tired or achy it helps me to remember that someone more than twice my age can still get up on a cold morning and go for a run, jump, hurdle and some "pop-ups in the pit" (whatever they may be).

Proud to be a kiwi!


Shirley Peterson, 79, did not set out to break a world athletics record - it just happened.

Two weeks ago today, the Christchurch grandmother of three set out from Halswell by bus for an inter-club athletics meeting at Queen Elizabeth II Park.

More than an hour later, she arrived at the park, where it was "blowing a gale", feeling "sore in the back and stiff in the legs".

At just her second meeting of the year, Peterson was feeling nervous about even reaching the sandpit on her jumps, but as always was determined to give it a go.

She soon surprised herself and onlookers with a 6.3m triple jump, slashing the world record for her age by almost 1m.

Peterson broke the record four times on consecutive jumps. She had the field referee running back after each attempt, starting with 5.63m and taking the record to 6.3m on her fourth jump.

"I was amazed. I couldn't believe it," she said.

"You never know when you are going to do it (break a world record) - it just happens."

A member of the Christchurch Technical Athletics Club for more than 40 years, Peterson cannot remember every record she holds. She broke the world long-jump record last season, holds a hurdles record from when she was 65 and has several others from earlier years waiting to be broken.

"They are there to be broken. You get a lot of fun and enjoyment out of it," she said.

"It's always nice to break a record, but you never say you are going out to do that. I think we are lucky to be able to do it at all as you get older every year."

Her training regime involved regular runs and sprints at a Halswell park and "pop-ups in the pit" once a week at QE II.

At the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin next month, she has entered the long jump, triple jump, 100m, 200m and the hurdles.

"I haven't done hurdles since breaking the record because my family doesn't want me doing it. I really still want to do a race just for the satisfaction."

With 87-year-olds competing alongside her at events, Peterson said she had no plans to give up.

Since taking up athletics in 1946, Peterson has represented New Zealand in the Empire Games in Auckland (as Shirley Hardman) and the World Masters Series. Her daughter is a former New Zealand sprint champion; her son a former national triple-jump champion.

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