Whanganui export Sally Gibbs has firmly established herself as the best middle distance runner for her age in the world.

Raised and educated in Whanganui and now living in Katikati, the 55-year-old vicar's wife was holidaying for a few weeks before returning home with three gold medals from the World Masters Athletics championships in Malaga, Spain this month.

The Bay Of Plenty Times reported that her trifecta began in the 10km road race on the first Sunday of the championships (September 9). Gibbs beat Sabine Hoffer of Austria by 12 seconds to win in 37 minutes 10 seconds.

The following Wednesday she cruised home in the women's 55-59 years 5000m in 17.46.52 to beat Fiona Matheson of Great Britain by 43 seconds.


Then on the final day of the championships, she had her closest race of the week but still prevailed comfortably.

In the W55-59 1500m, Gibbs ran 4.54.96 to win by eight seconds over Esther Pedrosa of Italy.

Gibbs had won two gold and three silver medals in the W50 division at the 2016 World Masters Athletics championships in Perth.

But was not as prolific in Malaga because she only ran three events.

That was not by choice.

There was no 10,000m track race this time. She won gold in the event two years ago.

But more annoyingly, the half-marathon, in which she also won gold in Perth, and the 1500m final, where she won silver in 2016, were not just on the same day but started only an hour 45 minutes apart on the final morning of the championships.

Even for somebody who can run a half-marathon in 1 hour 22 minutes - as she did in Perth - the turnaround was impossible.

For somebody who took up running only 10 years ago, Gibbs has had an extraordinary amount of success.

These were her fifth World Masters Athletics championships. She's been a medallist in her age group every time before.

Her husband Brendan, recovering from a knee replacement, was in the stands supporting her in Malaga.