Seven months ago, Waipawa's Terrance McKenzie was watching a triathlon on television and seeing the victor on the podium thought to himself that it would be fun to win another medal.

So what did the 85-year-old do? He started training for the New Zealand national duathlon championships held in Taupo last month and achieved that goal, and also qualified for the world championships next year in Adelaide.

Yes, he was the only competitor in the 85-89-year-old category, but as he wryly quipped "by 85 most guys are dead", so it was a good result all round.

Unsurprisingly, he's no stranger to competitive duathlons, which he took up in his younger days in his home country of South Africa.

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In 1955, he came third in the 1000m match sprint at the national championships, and also won the Natal sprint championships, and he represented South Africa at the world duathlon championships in 1996 and 1997.

He's had lots of breaks from competition over the years, he said.

"In 1955 I was at university doing a science degree so had to choose between cycling and university - I was already 25 years old could not mess around any more.

"Then I went farming for quite a long time until I was 50 when I started doing mostly duathlons, and have done them ever since."

This included winning the same New Zealand national duathlon event in Palmerston North 14 years ago when he was in the 70-74-year-old age group.

Getting match-fit for his latest outing, however, was no mean feat.

"I hadn't run for several years, although I had been racing with the CHB Cycling club every week I was fit, but not to run.

"I decided to try and start running again - it took three to four months before I could run non-stop. At first I would run from one lamppost to the next, then stop and walk.

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"It took four months to join them up."

Having ticked that box off he now has a year to prepare for the world championships, although he is going to hold off confirming his attendance at that for a while yet.

"At 85, every week you do not quite know what's going to happen so you can't plan too far ahead," he smiled.

But he has a base to build on now for training and has joined the Hawke's Bay Triathlon Club with a mind to competing in some of their events.

Keeping fit has been just one element in keeping him in good health over the years, he said.

"The most important thing you can do for your health is not smoke, not drink and eat well.

"Right from when I was young I ate the right food - none of us got fat.

"We were told fat was a problem but in place of fat they started putting sugar in food, and it's that and carbohydrates that are the real problem."