Athletics: Life begins at 50 for this Masters Games hopeful

By Ben Guild

Bruce Solomon is a South African athlete in pursuit of an All Blacks winger - with a difference.

He doesn't play rugby. Instead, he is the best athlete for his age in the Bay of Plenty who is running down a dream to be the quickest Masters athlete New Zealand has ever seen.

The Masters Games records the 50-year-old covets belong to Bruce McPhail - who played two tests for the All Blacks in the mid-1950s.

Solomon wants to change all that. "My challenge is to chase his records, so I've got some good training to do and some good numbers to chase," he said.

Time and the calendar appear to be on his side. He turned 50 on December 24, meaning he fits the mould outlined in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers of an athlete born at the perfect time of year to succeed in age-grade competition. Indeed, he broke the Waikato/BOP M50 (athletes aged between 50-54) 200m record at a WBOP Championship meeting on January 12 - less than three weeks after his 50th birthday.

His marks of 7.73sec for 60m and 24.68sec for 200m qualify as Waikato/BOP M50 records, but it is the 11.57sec 100m and 23.77sec 200m national records set by McPhail in 1987 that he is really after.

A personal best of 12.11sec in the 100m with a tailwind in his first proper year of competition in more than two decades suggests he has a chance, but that is not the only thing he has on the agenda.

Solomon, who works in Bay of Plenty schools through the Kelly Sports programme, hopes his story will drive potential Masters athletes to join Tauranga Ramblers.

"People should try, but it is a hard message to get across," said Solomon.

"It is like going to the gym. There's all these bloody big bodies there, so people get stuck in their garage."

The South African hopes to gain NZ citizenship in November.

The facts

  • Club: Tauranga Ramblers

  • Category: M50 (for athletes aged 50-54)

  • Masters Athletics achievements:

  • Won five gold medals at the Wanganui Masters Games (100m, 200m, 400m, shot put and discus) and a silver in javelin.

Personal bests:

  • January 12, 2013 - Tauranga Domain (WBOP Championships meeting) - Set New Zealand Masters Record for 60m with a time of 7.73 seconds. Previous record set in 2011.January 20, 2013 - Tauranga Domain (Northern regional decathlon) - Set WBOP Masters Record for Decathlon with 4,931 points. Previous record set in 2012.

  • February 02, 2013 - Tauranga Domain (WBOP Championships meeting) - Set WBOP Masters Record for 400m with a time of 56.49 seconds. Previous record set in 1977.

  • February 08, 2013 - Wanganui (Masters Olympic Games) - Set WBOP Masters Record for 200m with a time of 24.68 seconds.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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