They can sprint, hurdle, and throw hammers. They can pole vault, hurl javelins and discuses, run a 10K, and splash through a steeplechase. For the pentathlon alone, they can ride horses, swim, fence, fire rifles, and run cross-country.
Based on these abilities, you might expect a pack of young athletes, fresh out of high school. But the stars of the NCCWMA Championship are all 30 years and older – and some are well into their 80s.
NCCWMA stands for North, Central American and Caribbean World Masters Athletics Championship, and the event is like a mini-Olympics for the Western Hemisphere, starring only “Masters Class” athletes. Last held in New Brunswick, Canada, in 2012, the NCCWMA championship will descend on the National Stadium in La Sabana Park on Thursday, Aug. 21.
“We’ve got an athlete from Japan, two or three from the Netherlands, people from all over the world,” said Jim Procter, a 74-year-old runner, during a conversation with The Tico Times last week. Originally from Texas, Procter moved to Costa Rica 40 years ago, but he didn’t become seriously involved in running until he sold a hotel he owned and had to occupy his time.
“I’m addicted,” admitted Procter, who visits La Sabana’s race track at 6 a.m., five mornings a week, to train. “You think you’re 30 years old, and you’re not. Your mind says yes, but your body says, ‘Forget it.’ But I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a better time this year than last year.”
While Proctor is only one of the many Master Class athletes in Costa Rica, he is also driven and competitive, and boasts a big personality. He is a major proponent of Masters Class athletics and has strong opinions about its health benefits. The Tico Times met with Procter last year to talk about his experience as a mature athlete. Watch him in action here:
Unlike the occasional marathon runner or recreational soccer player, Masters Class athletes are generally serious and committed, training year-round and traveling from all over the world to participate in the games. Costa Rica boasts the largest number of participants, with 187 registrants, followed by Mexico with 111 and the United States with 85. While smaller Masters Class events regularly take place in Costa Rica, the NCCWMA Championship is a major event: The full roster includes 615 athletes, most of whom are 35-65 years old.
While any city north of South America was qualified to host the NCCWMA Championship, San José won the bid, possibly because of new and attractive facilities of the National Stadium, completed only three years ago. All events will take place in and around the stadium, where three action-packed days of shot put, relays, races, and triples jumps will unfold, plus countless other activities.
One event will particularly embrace the championship’s Costa Rican setting. The 10K race will thread its way through San José, cutting through residential neighborhoods and looping through San Rafael de Escazú. See what this looks like the following NCCWMA video:
The NCCWMA Championship takes place Aug. 21-24 at The National Stadium, La Sabana Park, San José. For a full calendar of events, visit the 2014 NCCWMA Championship page.