The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) World Championships in Beijing draw to a close this weekend. Stories of triumph, drama and heartache from the competition have been making the headlines here in the UK as you would expect. There is a rather more obscure story however, that you may not have heard of:
Today, Saturday August 29th, two masters events were showcased there – the men’s 800m 50+ and the women’s 400m 50+ races. This is the first time a masters event has been included in an open world championships so it’s A Big Deal for athletics. It’s also a Big Deal for folk like me who have been actively promoting images of some of these awesome masters athletes in order to offer a different visual narrative to the one that dominates in our culture where old age is represented as a time of frailty and physical inactivity and deterioration.
If you follow my shenanigans on social media, you will know that it’s not long since I got back from the World Masters Athletics Championships – Lyon 2015. As I observed and shared a couple of times on Facebook and Twitter, the interest on the ground from the world’s media this year was unprecedented. It’s made me think that maybe at last there might just be some interest in what older people are doing in general and what masters athletes are doing in particular.
Before I left for Lyon, I was talking a lot about the need to find a new word for the ‘young old’. I realise that the athletes I’ve photographed range in age from their 60s to their 90s, and so span the elder age bracket, but once again I hope that the older legends I’ve captured – the likes of Charles Eugster, Flo Meiler, Gwen Gleeson and Emilia Garcia de Fontan, athletes in their 80s and 90s, and some of their pretty jaw-dropping personal stories and achievements – add to the new ageing conversation. I hope too that as a result we shall see more masters races happening alongside the ‘youngsters’ in the not too distant future. It’s going to be interesting meanwhile seeing how the world’s media and the public respond to the masters events in Beijing.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks since I’ve been back going through all my photographs, editing and reliving moments and memories and the stories the incredible athletes shared with me when we chatted together. Here is a selection of images which appeared in a piece published yesterday on the online Telegraph’s Goodlife channel. World Masters Athletics Championships: inspiring older athletes