Gold standard for Veteran champion

Septuagenarian sportsman Grayham Smith has proved that age is no barrier when it comes to success after securing a double medal haul at the National Veterans’ Athletics Championships at Alexander Stadium, Birmingham.

Smith, who is 70 and vice-chairman of Halifax RUFC, stepped up to collect a gold medal in the discus with a throw of 34.63 and a silver in the M70 javelin with a distance of 31.68m to finish behind winner Victor Adcock who threw 34.43.

Smith’s medals were just two of many he has collected since returning to the throwing disciplines at the age of 42.

And he says he has no intention of giving up providing he feels he can do himself justice out in the arena.

His outlook is simple: “I enjoy it,” he said. “It makes you train; you eat sensibly and you look after yourself knowing that a competition is coming up.

“Of course you want to test yourself against others, but the ultimate test is against yourself. It is important for the individual to know they can still do it.”

Smith, who has competed in World Veterans Championships in both Brisbane and Gateshead, felt he had been throwing well leading up to Birmingham and proved his point by setting a new northern veterans championship discus distance record for the M70 age category of 35.72m in a competition at Leigh Sports Village a few weeks earlier.

After that he was in action again at the Welsh Veterans Masters in Cardiff where again he won the discus with 35.94 and also competed in the javelin (31.33) and hammer (32.63).

However, Smith’s participation in Birmingham was in doubt after he picked up an injury during the hammer competition at the British Veterans’ Throwers’ Pentathlon event at a rain-lashed Milton Keynes two weeks before the competition.

“The circle was soaked,” explained Smith. “We were all aqua-planing as we moved across it and I took a tumble and my left arm took the weight.

“I tore a muscle and also burst a vein and as a result my forearm and hand filled with blood. My wife said I ought not compete in Birmingham but I knew as a right handed thrower that I would be okay.

“I had trained hard and I wanted to do justice to all that preparation and commitment. Apart from a little discomfort I felt fine and at the finish I was well suited by the day’s events.”

Smith is well-known locally through his association with Halifax RUFC, but he was a keen athlete during his school years only switching to rugby when he attended University.

His interest in throwing was re-awakened when his daughter Kate came home from school with a javelin and from that moment he was hooked again.

“I said to her ‘Give me that, I’ll show you how it’s done,’ and that was when I was 42,” said Smith.

“At the same time Trevor Driver, from the Old Crossleyans, said he fancied a go at senior athletics. As a result, Trevor, myself and another Todmorden resident Ivor Buckley took it up and we finished up competing all over the country.

“It was brilliant. Our partners came along too and we had a wonderful time.”

With no signs of slowing down, Smith added: “Clearly as you get older you lose some of the strength and fitness you once had.

“The graph is ever downward so it is a question of making that graph balance out as much as possible.”