Heather Lee has set a world record* and won gold in the women’s 3000m walk for the 90+ age group clocking 24 minutes 56:97 seconds in Penguin at the 16th Australian Masters Games staged in Tasmania’s North West.
The 90-year-old, who was disappointed there was not a 10km walk on the schedule, was more than happy with her efforts, particularly over the last lap.
With two laps remaining she was able to increase the pace and pushed herself all the way to the line despite the warm and sunny conditions, leaving her hands-on knees gasping for breath at the finish.
“I’m happy, that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to get the world record,” Lee said after the race.
“Actually, I established a world record (for the distance) but it was never ratified, so hopefully now it will be.
“It’s fabulous to get it, that’s the only thing that kept me going.
“It was a bit warm, if someone could have poured water over me halfway around I would have been more than happy.”
It was only just days ago that Lee was informed she would walk a leg in the Queen’s Baton Relay for the 2018 Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast – a fitting honour considering she was born in the same year as her majesty.
Her race walking career only took off in 2011 when her physiotherapist suggested the Australian Masters Games as she was quickly running out of good competition for her age group.
“Oh, a lot of training and a lot of hard yakka early in the morning but I’m happy now,” Lee responded when asked how she achieved her goal.
“It’s determination and doggedness (that keeps me going), when I got to 90 I thought, ‘I’m fit let’s keep going’.
“I want to be at the top, not just in Australia but the world too.”
In 2012, she set a number of national records across multiple distances, breaking two world records the following year and in 2017 she wanted to set another 3000m walk record for the 90+ age group.
She has been presented with the Order of Australia Medal for her continuous participation over 15 years in the Relay for Life that helps raise money for cancer treatment and for her contribution to masters walking.
“I want to go out on a high,” Lee said when asked about her future in race walking.
“One of these days it will come to an end, God knows when, I hope it never does, I’ll just continue.
“Nothing else today (no other events), but I’m down to do the 5000m tomorrow but I won’t if it’s too late in the day.
“There’s so much camaraderie (at the Australian Masters Games), we’re all like-minded people and none of us want to give it up, we’re all just trying our hardest, it doesn’t matter if you win, it’s about getting out there and doing your best.”
*Subject to ratification