19 Apr 2017

World Masters Games kick off in Auckland on Friday

From Morning Report, 8:55 am on 19 April 2017

The 82-year-old swimmer Penny Slack only learned to swim when she was 72 - but that's not stopping her from taking part in the World Masters Games.

Mrs Slack will be competing in the 800m in the largest multi-sport event on earth which kicks off this Friday in Auckland.

"I feel a bit cheeky really because the others have been competitive swimmers all their lives and I'm really just doing it for the fun of it."

Slack says she never learned to swim earlier because she was scared and because she never had the opportunity.

"I grew up in the back blocks. We didn't have a pool at school. Creeks and eels and things are not very enticing.

"And then when I was 72, I was taking my daughter to swimming lessons... I thought 'this doesn't look too threatening, nice tiles, warm water, not deep' and I went to the office and said 'would you be able to teach me to swim?' They said 'yes' and I enrolled... There was no backing down."

Cameron Leslie

Cameron Leslie Photo: Supplied: International Paralympic Committee Facebook

Another competitor, para-athlete Cameron Leslie, has been swimming for New Zealand for 10 years.

The 27-year-old is no stranger to the pool - but he will be one of the youngest competitors at the Masters.

"It's certainly not my first time at a big event - but it's certainly a very different big event," he says.

Leslie says he trains alongside masters athletes and there is always a bit of banter and competition.

"It's just good fun. When this came along I knew all my training partners would be doing it so I thought I'd join in as well and we could have a few more laughs and a bit more banter."

He says this will be his first competition since the Rio Paralympics and "survival is a good start."

Another notable contestant in the games is Sir Peter Snell who will be competing with his wife at table tennis.

Peter Snell

Peter Snell Photo: supplied

The World Masters Games is open to sports people of all abilities and most ages - the minimum age criterion ranges between 25 and 35 years depending on the sport

About 28,000 people are expected to flood into Auckland for ten days of competition covering 28 different sports.