Three prominent New Zealand sports stars are making their competitive debut at the World Masters Games next year - but not in the sports they are famed for.
Former world women's marathon record holder Allison Roe, ex-test cricketer Martin Snedden and ex-Silver Ferns netball captain Anna Stanley are among up to 12,000 Kiwis aiming to compete in the Games to be held in Auckland and Waikato next April.
Roe will compete in the single sculls rowing event despite having no background in the sport. She is already in training for it.
Snedden, who ran the successful 2011 Rugby World Cup tournament, is a board member for the Masters Games, will play in the golf competition and is officially the first entrant for the event with registrations opening today.
Stanley is aiming for track success. She is part of a 4x400 metre track relay team called 'Flabs not Abs' and said she was looking forward to the Games' camaraderie and taking on the Aussies once again.
The trio are among the first 10 competitors named to compete in the Games which is the largest multi-sport tournament in the world and features 28 different sports across 45 competition venues.
World Masters Games Executive Jennah Wootten said the Games, run once every four years, are open to all masters athletes, regardless of sporting capability. She expects 25,000 people to compete and organisers say the event will deliver $36 million GDP and 250,000 visitor nights to Auckland's economy and $53 million GDP and 266,000 visitor nights to the wider New Zealand economy.
The Government ($11 million) and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development ($11.75 million) have invested approximately two thirds of the $33 million required to stage the event with the other third to come from registration fees ($7.4 million) and commercial sponsorship ($4.6 million).
"For some people, the World Masters Games is about taking on international competition and winning gold. For others, it's more about travelling to the host country to celebrate and enjoy sport with like-minded people," she says.
"Right now, not many New Zealanders know about the World Masters Games because we haven't hosted one before. But we're hoping about 12,000 Kiwis will step up and join in, because we're a sporting nation, and sport is what we do so well."
Wootten felt the first 10 athletes named hint at the diversity of the Games.
"Participants typically range from masters sporting greats, former Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games medal winners, to amateur athletes and teams who are together because they enjoy sport and want to have fun," she says.
"In addition to 12,000 plus New Zealanders, we are expecting more than 12,000 international competitors, with half of those coming from Australia."
Another former Kiwi sports great who has entered is US-based Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist Anthony Mosse who intends to return home to compete in the pool swim and ocean swim events.
Also competing is swimmer Duane Kale who won four gold medals and set four world records at the 1996 Paralympics, earning him a legacy as one of the great para athletes. He will be back in the pool in Auckland.
Others include softballer Jenny Holliday, once described as the fastest woman pitcher on the planet, the 'Mr Touch' of touch football Peter Walters and Canadian DJ and basketballer Jude Kelly.
Wootten explained that there is no need to qualify or be selected to compete in the Games.
"As long as you are over the minimum age for your chosen sport, and meet the minimum disability classification requirements in the case of para-sports, you can take part," she said.
Snedden said the Games send an important message - that sport is for life, and available to all.
"We are a sporting nation, but participation in competitive sport tends to wane with age.
This event demonstrates that whether you are 25 or 95, you have the ability to set sporting goals and achieve them.
"When it comes to golf I'm no world beater, but I'm stepping up, and challenge all those who are passionate about sport to join me in having a go."
The World Masters Games were founded in 1985 with the first held in Toronto, Canada.
The last two Games were held in Sydney in 2009 and Torino in 2013. The New Zealand Games feature 28 sports and 45 disciplines with competition scheduled to take place over 10 consecutive days from 21-30 April 2017. The entry age is different for each sport, ranging from 25+ in swimming to 40 for dragon boat (a canoe discipline). Competitors generally compete in their own age group.
The Games' 'International Goodwill Ambassador' is Lord Sebastian Coe and there are another 14 ambassadors including Mosse, Roe, Stanley, Olympic gold medal triathlete Hamish Carter, netballer Jenny-May Clarkson, All Blacks legend Bryan Williams and rower Nathan Twaddle.
Registrations for the Games close at the end of January next year. Places in some sports are capped.
More detail: www.worldmastersgames2017.co.nz