Whangārei sprinter Ugen Iyer has her eyes set on competing in the open age division after dominating the masters category for the last three years.

Iyer, 35, set two national sprinting records in 2016 and in the last two years received 16 medals, 11 of them gold, in various competitions for the 60m, 100m and 200m events.

She picked up three of her golds at the Pan Pacific Games in Australia earlier this month after winning all three races.

"For now, masters is something for me to look forward to, there's enough competition to keep me going, it's pretty relaxed and I get to meet a lot of people but ideally I would like to compete in the open division," Iyer said.


The South African-born athlete said she needed to shave a bit more off her personal best of 13.10 seconds in the 100m and if she does, she would be the oldest person competing in the open division.

"To compete in the open division for nationals I have to qualify and I'm about 0.25 seconds from qualifying. That's the goal for the next three months and if I commit to it I can get close to my PB."

Ugen Iyer with one of her latest sprint gold medals - from the Pan Pacific Games in Australia earlier this month.
Ugen Iyer with one of her latest sprint gold medals - from the Pan Pacific Games in Australia earlier this month.

Iyer started running as a child but at age 20, she made the decision to move to New Zealand and study which meant running would take a backseat. After 10 years away from the track, getting married and having two children, Iyer returned to sprinting so she could have something for herself.

"I just needed something for me and sprinting was familiar territory and something that was easy for me to get back into because I had done it before.

"I wanted to show my kids I could still do what I love doing and I hope they watch me and think, 'mum's doing great, she doesn't give up and I'm passionate about it'."

Despite her natural ability in the sport, she had to take things slow, spending a year training at the track and doing crossfit before she entered any competitions.

"I've torn my hamstrings three times because I was quite fast when I was 18/19 and to go back to the track now, in my mind I feel like I can still do it but your body says 'no you've got 15 years on you now'.

"I still need to slow down at times because I can't push myself as hard as I used to and that's the hardest part, not getting injured."


The full-time Fonterra laboratory supervisor said her husband Reggie has played an instrumental role in helping her have the seven to eight hours a week she needs to train.

"My husband is a shift worker which means he can have the kids during the day so a lot of my trainings are structured around his days off."

The next tournament in the calendar is the athletics nationals in March next year where Iyer hopes to have secured her place in the open competition.