While World Masters Games 2017 will no doubt attract its fair share of household names, it’s the everyday heroes who will provide many of the most inspiring stories.
Sports fans won’t have heard of most of the 25,000 WMG2017 competitors - the everyday athletes who push themselves to their limits, playing sport to stay healthy, to fight back after accidents or illness or simply for the love of competition and camaraderie that masters sport delivers. But they are already training their hearts out to take on the world.
South Auckland javelin thrower Melissa Brearley-Tipene was an Oceania Games gold medallist attempting to qualify for the Commonwealth Games 21 years ago, when she was hit by a van while crossing the road.
At the time rehab wasn’t enough to overcome her injuries and she was forced to give the sport away and abandon her dream of once again representing New Zealand.
Refusing to let her personal disappointment defeat her, she busied herself contributing to other people’s success, studying sports massage and using that to help others achieve their goals – working with the All Blacks, young athletes and people with chronic and acute injuries.
Now her kids, husband and mum have convinced her to sign up for WMG2017 and she can’t wait to compete again in the women’s javelin 40-44 age group.
“I haven't felt that inner buzz of excitement that athletics and competing gives me for such a long time,” she says. “I just want to inspire my kids and make them and my family proud of me.”
Another who is feeling the buzz ahead of next year’s Games is 49-year-old Wellingtonian Michael Wray.
Michael’s idea of running had only ever involved a game of football, before his wife, much to his surprise, entered him in the 2005 Wellington Round the Bays fun run. It was the start of a running obsession that went from 5km to 10 km to half and full marathons, as well as cross country and middle distance events.Now a member of the Wellington Scottish Running Club, Michael has won a string of medals and titles and continues to push himself to run times that earn an Athletic New Zealand ranking listings for senior men.
“I run to compete. To test myself. A test against age. A test against others of my age. I have won provincial titles, national titles and Oceania titles. Why not go for world titles? I'll need to be on form and I'll need to be lucky. It's all about what happens on the day.”
Michael and Melissa will be joined by 25,000 others who are in it for the love of sport.