Canning of Masters Games disappoints


A FALSE start gun rang out when the New Zealand Masters Games organisers decided to cancel all events due to the Government implementing its Covid-19 Red Traffic Light protocol.

The New Zealand Masters Games is the largest multi-sport event held in New Zealand. The annual event alternates between Dunedin and Whanganui with more than 5000 sportspeople aged between 19 and 95 years competing in more than 60 sporting codes.

New Zealand Masters Games manager Vicki Kestila said the Games could only be held under an Orange or Green traffic light under the government’s Covid-19 safety protocols.

“After coming so close to being able to deliver this amazing event, we are gutted we have had to make this call. Not only does it affect the team, but we know our entrants, volunteers and contractors are hurting as much as us,” she said.

“So much planning had gone into what we had hoped would be our best Games yet.”

Rescheduling the event was not an option as up to 50 different venues, including the Otago University facilities, used for the event were not available during the year, Kestila said.

Invercargill cue sportsman Kerry Popham was disappointed the Games had been cancelled.

“What’s the point in getting vaccinated if you can’t go and do stuff,” he said.

Often the individual events had fewer competitors than the limit of 100 people.

“Our club only has 60-65 people in it at any one time on a Friday night.”

Popham (66), of Southland, did not agree with mandates which limited interactions between different members of the community.

“I am just over it,’’ he said.

Track and field athlete Barry Smith (66) thought the decision to cancel the games was a reasonable one, even though he had been looking forward to competing.

“It’s a bit of a bugger. But I understand it. Let’s get on with it and get rid of this Covid thing and all get back to normal again.’’

Along with the events he would normally compete in, in the 65-69 age group, he planned to add the 10km walk and indoor triathlon, the 5km run and indoor rowing.

He normally maintained a high fitness level by training two or three times a week.

Life changed for him in 2011 when his leg was crushed between a log and a digger bucket.

A goal to compete at the Masters Games had fuelled his determination to get moving again. He was walking again just six weeks after the accident.

He was able to laugh at some of his early efforts at the first Masters Games events he attended.

“It’s more than competing. It’s the fact that I can still do it. If I look back, my parents and grandparents were nowhere near or had the ability to do this sort of thing.

“I’m really quite grateful I can still charge around the field and make a nuisance of myself.”

Cancelling the Games was a double-whammy for him. He, like many competitors, often combined the weekend with a prolonged break or holiday with family or friends.

“Robyn, my wife, pops up after the Games and we go on holiday for a couple of weeks and then come home again.”

He considered the social events at the end of the sporting programmes, where all the sporting codes got together, a good way to begin the holiday.