21 Apr 2017

Masters of the Universe now happy to simply be Masters

12:22 pm on 21 April 2017

They were once Masters of the Universe ... but now they're simply Masters.

The legendary Sir Peter Snell, marathon runner Allison Roe and surf life saving Ironman Cory Hutchings will be among nearly 25,000 athletes competing in the World Masters Games which kicks off in Auckland today.

While all those competing may be past their prime, their competitive fire still burns.

Marathon runner Allison Roe, surf life saving Ironman Cory Hutchings and Sir Peter Snell.

Marathon runner Allison Roe, surf life saving Ironman Cory Hutchings and Sir Peter Snell. Photo: PhotoSport

Sir Peter, who won gold medals at both the 1960 Rome Olympics and Tokyo four years later, is chasing more medals this weekend, not on the track but in table tennis.

"Well the main thing is that that's all I can do now - it's sad to say but I have a heart that doesn't work very well, I get breathless very easy but I can manage table tennis and golf as long as I have a cart to ride on between shots."

Snell, 78, said he was feeling confident ahead of the competition.

Sir Peter Snell

Sir Peter Snell at Te Papa recently when he handed over a personal collection of his sporting memorabilia. Photo: RNZ / Bridget Tunnicliffe

"You take a step to the left, a step to the right, forwards and backwards, and as long as the rallies are not to long and against my age related pairs ... I can do reasonably well."

In 1981, Alison Roe won both the Boston and New York Marathons but at the Masters - she'll be on her mountain bike.

"Oh I'm certainly not taking it as reliving my glory days I'm just hoping to stay on my bike to be honest, if I can stay on my bike I will be happy," she said.

Allison Roe on her way to winning the New York Marathon in 1981.

Allison Roe on her way to winning the New York Marathon in 1981. Photo: Photosport

"Not everyone that's competing in the Masters Games has been a competitive athlete in the past but obviously those who have been will want to give it a good push."

Roe said the games were all about trying a new sport.

Ex All Black Bryan Williams will compete in lawn bowls and golf at The Masters.

Ex All Black Bryan Williams will compete in lawn bowls and golf at The Masters. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Other former top athletes taking part include Bryan Williams who will compete in golf and lawn bowls and Olympic swimming silver medallist Anthony Mosse.

There is also a badminton pair from the US who have competed in every Masters Games since they began in 1985, and a 101 year old woman from India who is competing in the 100m, 200m, shot put and javelin.

Games ambassador, surf life saving Ironman Cory Hutchings, said the games also gave former top-flight athletes a chance to relive their glory days.

Cory Hutchings competing in 2003.

Cory Hutchings competing in 2003. Photo: Photosport

"I probably haven't done any proper races for the past 10 to 15 years so it's a good opportunity to get back into the sport again and try and get a bit of fitness back.

"I've enjoyed that aspect of it without the pressures of what it used to be," he said.

Drugs still a no-no

And like younger competitors, the Masters will be tested for performance enhancing drugs.

Many medications for health conditions can boost performance or act as masking agents and are illegal in a competitive environment.

However, Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief executive Graeme Steel - who will also be taking part - is urging athletes not to stop taking their medications.

"Probably more of these athletes than you would expect at a major games will need to use medication for their health and they should continue to use that but they should also realise there are rules that relate to what they can and can't use." he said.

Steel said if an athletes did test positive they would sort out the ramifications after the event.

The Masters Games officially starts with the opening ceremony tonight at Eden Park with the competition running through to 30 April.