Kiwi rower Ian Hatton has proved the old adage “it’s never too late” after making an eye-catching returning to the sport following a break of more than 40 years.
The Nelson-based great-grandfather caught the headlines last month after snaring four gold medals at the Bankstream New Zealand Masters Championships on Lake Karapiro and now the 78-year sculler has cast his gaze towards competing with pride at the 2017 World Masters Games.
Introduced to the sport aged 17 because the Sea Scouts he used to attend shared a shed with the Nelson Rowing Club – he competed with some distinction at a club level for “12 or 13 years” until family and work commitments took precedence and he ‘retired’ in the mid-1960s.
However, he was inspired to pick up an oar again six years ago after reading in the newspaper how an old rowing friend had won a gold medal at the South Island Masters Rowing Championships.
“I thought, if he can do it I can too,” explains Ian of his decision to reunite with the sport then aged 72.
Ian returned to his old club and adapted “pretty quickly” to life in a boat, going on to win several gold medals at the 2011 South Island Rowing Masters Championships in Invercargill.
“I really started rowing again to keep fit,” added Ian. “We only really have a couple of competitions a year and I really enjoy the social side.”
“We row on the Nelson Haven which has quite a big tidal range. I enjoy the range of scenery and the fact we get to row among the orcas, dolphins and seals.”
Rowing between four to six times per week, last month Ian surpassed expectations to bag a quartet of gold medals at the NZ Masters Rowing Championships in the I Class (age 75-79) single, H Class (70-74) mixed double and men's quad J Class (80+) double.
Yet as impressive as his success was in Cambridge thanks to the words of his 82-year-old doubles partner Brian Hutchison from Blenheim, Ian has even greater ambitions on the rowing lake.
“Brian spoke to me about competing in Auckland (at World Masters Games) and I’d love to go there when I will be aged 80,” he explains. “The excitement will start to build as we get closer to the event. It is a good prospect to meet people of different ages from different countries.”
So having taken a break from the sport for more than 40 years, why would the retired engineer encourage others to take up rowing?
“I think it has got all the features to keep you healthy,” adds Ian. “To row you need good balance, you need to use most of the muscle groups and it keeps your joints flexible.
“For old people it is recommended a daily walk keeps you healthy, yet for me it is much more pleasant to be out in the fresh air in a rowing boat.”