Oerter was just another thrower at 1977 worlds
On to Gothenburg, Sweden, site of the second World Masters Athletic Championships and the founding of WAVA — the World Association of Veteran Athletes. Again, I’ve posted two PDF files — the first being an image file of the results booklet of all 1977 world masters results. The second is a searchable PDF, where you can see how Al Oerter beat old Olympic rival Ludvik Danek in the M40 discus with a world record at that time.
I also re-uploaded the PDF files from the Toronto 1975 world masters meet, optimizing them for the Web — making them faster to download.
Among other treats, this results book contains a reprint of a Swedish journalist’s admiring column — and an English translation.
The journalist, Ulf Jansson, wrote:
Look at all these faces: One Japanese, one American, one Swede, one West German and one Englishman. They all have something in common. They radiate harmony: Although it has not been scientifically proved, I found during the Veteran Championships last week decisive proof that it is healthy to participate in sport.
Certainly it makes growing old easier if you take regular exercise. Many people probably consider that it is sheer lunacy for 70, 80 and 90-year-olds to compete against each other. The risk of a heart attack, a broken bone or at least a pulled muscle must be great . We are talking about old and frail people.
But it so happens that actual competition is the lifeblood of sports and its ultimate goal. Without competition, sports would be dead. There have been ottempts by GIH (Swedish Sports and Gymnastic University) and by certain Swedish Athletic Federations to disregard this fact. It has been implied that it is ungentlemanly to win, to defeat opponents. Yet is does not work like that on the field.
The truth is that one is anxious to know how one stands in relation to others. One feels respect for those who are better. The actual athletuc performances — amazing and impressive though they are — have been accounted for earlier in the week, so we can dispense with them now.
But there is something else I cannot forget. Something that struck me time and time again during the competitions. What self-confidence these people have. It is not always easy to to grow old. One can feel pushed aside, useless and perhaps neglected. It is perhaps said that one cannot contribute to production. If so, then sport is a great way of retaining your self-esteem. Just knowing that you can still control your own body means so very much.
Moreover you compete as much against yourself as against others. The main thing is that one has a goal. That’s why the Veteran Championships are such a good idea.
As I walked around watching and talking to these elderly ladies and gentlemen, I got the impression that the feeling of togetherness was just as important as the actual competition competition.
Just the mere fact that one could meet and associate with each other: Comradeship is sometimes neglected in elite sports — especially when money is involved. Horever, in the Veteran Championships solidarity and comradeship have no boundaries.