Scottish gent won 2 throws golds at Kamloops — after stroke

Comebacks from injury are part and parcel of masters track. Some go the extra mile, getting heart transplants or new knees. But this story from Scotland just frightens me: “A retired athletics coach from Edinburgh has become a double world champion hammer thrower – in his first competition after suffering a stroke. Bill Gentleman, 70, who famously discovered Scots legend Yvonne Murray and set her out on the track to running success, suffered the stroke in July 2008.” He won two golds at Kamloops — in the 4-kilo hammer (47.33/155-3) and 16-pound weight throw (16.68/54-8 3/4). Not all strokes cause paralysis, I realize. But I’d be worried about doing more damage. I once took a half-paralyzed stroke victim (a church friend) to weekly swim therapy. I got him into his suit and went into the water with him, and then got him dressed afterward and drove him home. Such a sad sight. Mr. Gentleman, take care!

Here's Bill Gentleman at Kamloops. (Photo by Lesley Richardson)

Here’s the whole article, in case the link goes dead.

Stroke victim savours hammer title joy

Published Date: 20 March 2010

A RETIRED athletics coach from Edinburgh has become a double world champion hammer thrower – in his first competition after suffering a stroke.

Bill Gentleman, 70, who famously discovered Scots legend Yvonne Murray and set her out on the track to running success, suffered the stroke in July 2008.

Medical experts felt it was unlikely he would throw the hammer again as it affected his balance.

In some cases, a slower dose reduction is required. Studies on the effectiveness and safety of in people under 18 years of age have not been conducted.

He amazed everyone by not only representing Great Britain in the fourth World Masters Athletics Championships in Kamloops, Canada, last week, but winning two gold medals in the hammer and weight throwing events.

The retired biology teacher was so impressive in the age 70-plus events, he was also drafted in to the Great Britain 200-metre sprint relay team in the over-60 age group as Team GB finished sixth.

Mr Gentleman said: “The neurosurgeon and the stroke specialist felt I could make a good recovery, but having your balance for turning fast and throwing the hammer is a different thing.

“They were concerned I wouldn’t throw again, so it’s very satisfying to become champion.”

Here’s another story I found about Bill Gentleman:


Bill Gentleman is 65 years old, and the former Head Teacher of Biology at Musselburgh Grammar School. In the last year he has achieved amazing success in his field of athletics. He competed in the Canadian World Masters Games in July 2005, winning a Gold, 2 Silvers and 1 Bronze medal in throwing events. In August, he won a Silver medal and broke 2 British records in the Hammer Throw whilst competing in the Spanish World Masters Athletics Championships.

This year, in May, Bill was the oldest person ever to win a Scottish Championship medal, gaining a Bronze in the Hammer Throw, whilst competing against athletes in all age groups – the winner being 48 years younger than him. Recognition of these achievements has been widely publicised and was even given mention in a USA Journal.

Also known as the ‘Swinging Singer’ he sings with 3 Edinburgh Opera Companies and gives much of his free time to guiding others in a variety of ways. Bill takes part in sponsored weightlifting and singing events, and has raised considerable amounts of money for charities and churches.

He coaches seniors and veterans in weight training, throwing techniques and running, on a voluntary basis, and passes on a wealth of knowledge and inspiration from his on-going personal performance and ‘evergreen appearance.

Bill easily demonstrates his ability to help older people to feel that they can continue to pass on their skills and feel valued, and he certainly leads by extraordinary example.

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March 25, 2010

8 Responses

  1. Susan Wiemer - March 25, 2010

    Mr Gentleman,
    God bless you. I respect your tenacity and admire your courage. For those that worry for him, I have a quote:
    “A man who fears suffering, is already suffering from what he fears.” The quote is male oriented, but, let’s just apply this to everyone.

  2. Wayne Bennett - March 25, 2010

    Joe Summerlin, M75, suffered a mild stroke early in 2008 before winning the M75 Penn Relays a couple of months later. He will be at masters nationals this week.

  3. Wayne Bennett - March 25, 2010

    Correction!! Joe had his stroke in Jnauary of 2009

  4. Ken Stone - March 25, 2010

    Another story of an amazing masters comeback appears today in a Minnesota newspaper:

    It’s about M60 runner Jim Sheehan, who injured his back as a collegian and didn’t compete for 35 years. At Kamloops, he won a bronze.

  5. Kevin Burgess - March 26, 2010

    Well done Bill.
    I hope I have the same determination to comeback after illness when I reach my 70s.
    Bill obviously loves his sport and we should not be worried for him. When we reach our later years its all about getting enjoyment out of life. Would Bill be happier not to take the risks and sit in a chair with his pipe and slippers, possibly just fading away.
    I dont think so.
    So Bill you get out there and win some more medals.

    (This attitude to life was brought home to me recently when my wife had a health scare, fortunately it was a false alarm, but it brings home the importance of living your life to the full)

    Good luck to Bill and any others coming back from illness.

  6. bobfelcher - March 26, 2010

    Good job Bill, I am no doctor but when my mother had her stroke, physical exercise actually was part of the mental rehab. Apparently physical movement helps to build new pathways in the brain(oversimplification).
    A bit of an analogy, a cars motor runs first and then it supplies power to the wheels which then move. However if a car’s engine won’t start you can remedy the situation by reversing the process, moving the wheels which will turn the engine over and get it to run. Apparently moving your appendages will help the brain learn to compensate for the stroke damage.

  7. Tom Fahey - March 27, 2010

    About 10 years ago, the old throws coach from Sacramento State University was competing in a masters meet held at the college. He didn’t look too good. I asked him how he was doing. He said, “I had a heart attack two weeks ago; my wife would kill me if she knew I was here. I would rather die on the field than in bed.”

    Masters throwers only go to Valhalla if they die holding a throwing implement.

  8. LANE DOWELL - March 30, 2010

    Bill, my friend,

    You are a role model for all seniors/masters, many of whom seem to feel that we need to take residence on the couch after achiveing a certain age.

    Keep up the good throwing. I hope I can elevate to your lofty standards someday. See you in May.

    Your Yank buddy,

    Lane (67)

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