WHILE millions of people are counting down the days to what they see as the most important sporting event of the year – a group of Leeds pensioners know it has already come and gone.
Dozens of elderly residents from Richmond Hill and Burmantofts went head to head in the Young at Heart Olympics, battling it out for the chance to win gold.
But these energetic athletes weren’t competing in the usual challenges like the relay, long jump or hurdles.
Their unique over-70s version of the Games featured far more fun tasks such as welly-wanging, tug of war and hula-hooping, alongside the more sedate flag-making, cake-decorating and that classic rainy-day game, Connect-4.
Maureen Lillywhite, community development worker for Zest Health for Life, said she came up with the idea because: “All the schools are doing sports days and Olympic-themed events and I just thought the old people were missing out.”
She added: “It was brilliant.
“They are all so full of fun.”
Great-grandmother Lily Hawkhead, 80, went wild for the welly wanging and twisted her way through the hula contest but insisted: “I’ve got two false hips now so I can’t do what I used to.”
Retired meter inspector David Wharton took top place on the winners’ podium for his efforts in launching a welly the furthest across the field – outside the Yorkshire Rider Social Club at Saxton Gardens, Leeds.
The proud 78-year-old, who was also on the winning tug of war team, scooped a medal and certificate.
The grandad, who used to play cricket for East Leeds and football for Mount St Mary’s, told the Yorkshire Evening Post, the unusual contest was: “Absolutely brilliant.”
Wheelchair user Mary Micklethwaite, 79, said her favourite event had been the tug of war.
The grandmother-of-four said: “It was marvellous.
“I did my best but I have osteoarthritis in my back so if I stand up I fall down.”
A team of volunteers from Lloyds bank helped to organise the event through the Business in the Community scheme.
They created a patriotic base for the ‘Olympic athletes’ inside the club and provided prizes as well as a lunch for competitors.