Whangarei's Clasina van der Veeken is leading the way for Northland down at the World Masters Games in Auckland over the next 10 days.

The 10-day event, which covers 28 sports and 45 disciplines, as well as para-sports, hosts about 25,000 athletes.

Northland will provide 382 of those competitors, with van der Veeken the oldest from the north.

The 85-year-old said it was nice to have the event in her own backyard.


"I've done Masters Games for quite a few years. I've been to Finland so it's nice that it's close by. I can just head down there, there's going to be so many people there. It'll be eye-opening," she said.

"I don't do a lot of training anymore. I belong to a walking club so I do my walking but the rest, not so much."

Van der Veeken is competing in the women's 85-89 division in seven events: half-marathon, 4km cross country, heptathlon, 100m, hammer throw, long jump and triple jump.

The competition will be fierce, but van der Veeken is pretty sure she'll win.

"I think the competition will be pretty good. Only in the hammer and 100m I have opponents," she said.

"I do my half-marathon in about three hours. That's too long actually but never mind. I have done it quicker but as long as I finish I'll be happy."

Van der Veeken only took up the long-distance disciplines when she turned 68, deciding she had to do something other than playing cards.

Despite being told she was getting arthritis, van der Veeken decided to take the outdoor option for her recovery.

"In 2004 I went to the doctors with pain in my hands and he said I was getting arthritis. There were two cures. One was drugs and the other was exercise. I think you can guess what I choose and I have never looked back," she said.

"My arthritis is pretty good now. I try to set an example for my son and daughter and my grandchildren/great children.

"When I was younger I was always too busy working so now I have time to train and take part. I may have left my run a bit late but better late than never."

As you could imagine, van der Veeken wears through a lot of shoes. She holds on to the pairs at her home.

"I go through a lot of shoes. I have a whole pile in my cupboard. I'm not picky; I just buy them when I need," she said.

"I have four pairs at the moment. One's for my marathon running and the rest are a bit different."

The World Masters Games is the largest ever athletics meet held in New Zealand. It is estimated to be four times bigger than the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990.

Northland picked up a gold medal on the first day of competition.

In one of the few events to get under way before the opening ceremony at Eden Park, the Te Taitokerau 60+ women took out the win in the v12 canoe race.