I take part in a sport in which I have many very good, dear friends. That’s perhaps strange, given that it’s also a sport where we pit our skill, strength and speed against each other and try to be the fastest, the best, the winner.
Nevertheless, it’s true, and when we meet, be it at local events at home (for us Brits), or in bigger international events, there is a real sense of friendship, almost of “family”, amongst us sprinters. I’m sure those involved in other distances, jumps and throws will say the same for their cohort. The internet, e-mail, blogs and stuff are also helping us stay better in touch between events, which is good too. However, it’s still the case that, when we’re on track, before and after the gun, and before the finish line, we are committed rivals. And then along comes something like the European Masters Games.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The individual track events at the Games were, even though this is a “Games” and not a championship, hotly contested by some of the best Masters athletes around. While total numbers taking part were modest, the quality was high. No, on this occasion, I’m referring to a unique feature at the EMG: the relays.
Of course, all big events have relays. I’ve been fortunate to support some of my GB team pals to World and European championship relay medals, at both outdoor and indoor events. My three Worlds gold relay medals have pride of place. But EMG isn’t about national teams, and inter-nation rivalry. It’s about celebrating competition between Masters athletes. The unique feature is that four guys, any country, same Masters age category, can get together as a team and chase that gold medal.
That’s how Yves, from Macon, in France, a fine sprinter/jumper, Rob, from the East Midlands, a gutsy racer returning to form after knee surgery, Ryzsard, Polish and sometime European sprint champion, plus yours truly, came to be sitting together in the EMG call room. We were about to do battle on the same side, as “Team Europa”, in the 4x100m sprint relay.
And we won. We won well, and celebrated together. At no other event than EMG would we have had the opportunity, literally as a bunch comprising “me and my mates”, to chase down a European track and field gold medal. These were only the second European Masters Games, and none of us four took part in the relays in Malmö, back in 2008, so this was a first, in more senses than one, for each of us. The medal, presented, fittingly, without rostrum ceremony or national anthems, will go on the list of those I will regard as very special. It carries on the back the names of four buddies who just went out and did what they do best, but on the same side, for a change!