Richard Lockhart may have appeared at an Olympic Games and secured a truck load of medals in masters swimming, but for the Auckland-based breaststroke specialist the chief motivation for competing in the sport is the huge benefits to his health and well-being.
An asthmatic since childhood, competing in the pool helped control the condition. A late-developer he only started to enjoy swimming success in his final year at school but thanks to sheer “perseverance” he eventually earned international honours competing at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul and at the 1986 and 1990 Commonwealth Games before retiring (for the first time).
Richard took a 13-year break from the sport, but during that period piled on 15kg in weight and also saw his asthma deteriorate. He was twice put on a nebuliser – a powerful drug delivery device – which creates a mist of medicine to be breathed in orally.
“I needed something to change to get a bit of balance back into my life,” explains Richard, 51. “The hiatus away from swimming had been hugely detrimental to my asthma.”
In 2003 he decided to try out for ocean swimming before later returning to the pool where he rediscovered a passion for training in a group and entered some masters swimming races. The Remuera-based chartered accountant quickly enjoyed some success in the pool, but more importantly regular training held the worst effects of his asthma at bay.
“The fitter I am the fewer issues I have with my asthma,” Richard adds. “I will continue to swim for the rest of my life because I realise the adverse effects that come as a result of not swimming.”
Richard, who finished fourth for New Zealand in the 4x100m medley relay at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games, won three gold medals at the 2008 World Masters Swimming Championships in Perth, Australia - his first major international meeting as a masters swimmer - and success has continued.
At the past two World Masters Games in Sydney (2009) and Turin (2013), respectively, he has snared no less than six gold medals in the pool. Yet beyond the satisfaction of working hard and meeting his personal goals he cherishes his memories of competing in masters competitions and more particularly at World Masters Games for other reasons.
“Sport is just an excuse to get together and the World Masters Games is a great chance to meet people from other sports. I travelled and roomed with a cyclist at the past two World Masters Games. I also met and had a drink with a range of people in Turin including a Canadian volleyball player and an Australian basketballer.”
Richard admits because he will be aged 54 and competing at the top of the M50-54 age group at the 2017 World Masters Games in Auckland his personal expectations will be moderated.
However, he intends to race in the 50m, 100m, 200m breaststroke, 200m and 400m individual medley as well as several relays and he also plans to sample several other sports.
“I fancy doing a couple of surf live surfing events while I’m looking to be involved in a lawn bowls team with several Olympians including former Olympic triathlon champion and 2017 World Masters Games ambassador Hamish Carter. The Games are a great chance to experience some other sports and have some jolly good fun,” he adds.