Presenting an opportunity for the weekend warrior to rub shoulders with crown princes (more of which later) and ex-Olympians with centenarian sporting rookies, since its inception in 1985 the World Masters Games has been more than happy to welcome and embrace the full kaleidoscope of participants.
Yet when a little over 8000 athletes attended the inaugural World Masters Games in Toronto, Canada few could have predicted the future success the multi-sports competition would go on to enjoy.
Now firmly established as the largest multi-sports event on the planet - the Sydney edition in 2009 attracted more than 28,000 participants - the quadrennial festival of sport has thrived and multiplied into a hugely popular participatory behemoth.
Originally founded to meet the growing need for competitive sport among the ageing population - the second edition was held in 1989 across several Danish cities; Aalborg, Aarhus and Herning. It was not until the third Games - which were held in Brisbane, Australia under the motto “The Challenge Never Ends” - did the event receive a massive injection in competitors as 24,000 athletes descended on the Queensland state capital keen to taste the joy of competing at a major international event. The original organisers were succeeded by the current incumbents – the International Masters Games Association - in 1995 and since then IMGA has watched the competition steadily build in terms of status and prestige.
More than 100 countries attended the fourth edition staged in Portland, Oregon in 1998 and the event made its second reappearance in Australia in 2002 - as this time the Victorian capital of Melbourne took up the mantle as hosts. Some 20 years after Toronto staged the inaugural event, the World Masters Games returned to Canada in 2005 as Edmonton, Alberta stepped up to stage the sixth version of the event.
Four years later it was the record-breaking Sydney celebration with the Games returning to Europe for the first time in 24 years in 2013, when Torino in Italy welcomed athletes from a record-breaking 107 nations to the competition.
Participants in masters competition can be as young as 25 while competitors aged 100+ are also eligible to compete.A total of 16 core sports - archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, canoe-kayak, cycling, football, hockey, orienteering, rowing, shooting, softball, squash, table tennis, triathlon, weightlifting – appear at every Games. Meanwhile, Games organisers also have the option of selecting up to a further 14 optional sports.
In more recent times the Games have expanded to now encompass a Winter World Masters Games – the first one of which was staged in Bled, Slovenia in 2010 with the second edition is set to be staged in Quebec City, Canada in 2015.
Former participants at World Masters Games include former world triple jump record holder Willie Banks of the USA, Australian actress Lorraine Bayly and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark – who appeared at the 2009 World Masters Games in the sailing competition – finishing seventh in the 35+ Taser competition.