The World Masters Games is the world’s largest multi-sport event. Held every four years, it is the pinnacle sporting event for masters competitors worldwide. In supporting the Olympic Games ethos of ‘sport for all’, the goal of the World Masters Games is to encourage participation in sport throughout life. Competition and camaraderie are equally celebrated. Every four years, the International Masters Games Association, the representative body of masters sport worldwide, grants to one special city the rights to host the next Games. Two of the philosophies of the Masters Games are to promote friendship and understanding, along with competition, between mature sports people regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or sport status. So how do you or your team take part? For most sports there are no qualification criteria other than age. That means anyone can compete. Yvonne Cornes had a wonderful opportunity to participate in the games. She has excelled locally in mountain biking and decided to step it up a notch and get a great result in the highly competitive XCO mountain bike discipline. The added bonus was she has family and friends to support her goal. Here is her story…
"I am 41 yrs old and have been involved in sport since I was 10 years old. My sporting background ranges from gymnastics, athletics (hurdles), hockey and triathlon. I try not to be competitive, but it's in my nature, therefore I take each sport that I do quite seriously, set myself goals and try achieve them. I have set quite high expectations for myself! My most recent sporting passion is mountain biking, where the bug bit when I was in my 20s and so it has developed from there. I love the feeling of freedom, achieving my goals and winning. In 2016, I invested in a MTB coach, who took me to a whole new level of riding.
In 2016 I achieved two podium finishes – Kalahari Challenge (Botswana) and 3 Mountains Stage Race (Free State) as well as a PB at Berg n Bush Descent. As my motto states “Live a life to Remember” I had made a bucket list many years ago, and on it was to compete in the World Masters Games (but for triathlon). My brother immigrated to Auckland NZ and by chance I saw that the World Masters Games (WMG) 2017 was to be in Auckland. I saw this as an opportunity to not only visit my brother, but to compete at an International Level (gulp). In August 2016 I invested in another coach who specialises in XCO MTB racing and coaching. We sat down, set out my goals, drew up my programme and took it from there. I did my first XCO MTB race in Dec 2016, and got a huge wake-up call – this was not going to be an easy challenge – what with the technical bits, jumps, drop offs AND to ride at your highest HR possible. I put my head to the ground and rode the hills flat out in Machadodorp (where we spend a lot of our time) and followed the programme set out by my coach.
In January 2017 I was getting fitter and stronger by the day, my HR was looking good, my technical skills had improved AND I had attempted and achieved my first ‘jump’ and stair descent ever! I was very happy with my progress. On the day of the next XCO MTB race I tweaked my back before the race, rode on painkillers, achieved a podium 1st place, but could not get out of bed the next morning. After a Sports Physician, Physiotherapist, and a Chiropractor, driving with ice packs, sitting with heat packs, I did not think I would get on my MTB again and the WMG 2017 looked bleak. After 3 weeks of being off totally, my coach put me on a fast track program and I was surprisingly quickly back on track. The nerves were starting to set in as the weeks drew closer and closer. Was I putting too much pressure on myself? How would I compete after the injury? Would the podium finish still be in reach? Finally I was on the aeroplane to New Zealand. Touchdown in NZ - with a WC Triathlon in 2003 in Queenstown and quite a poor performance, I knew this time I needed at least 2 weeks to acclimatise and to recover from jetlag.
I spent that time getting used to the altitude and cycling light speed sessions to get my muscles in tune. WMG registration made me feel very nervous, I was shaking and forgot the documents I needed to register with. It definitely was quite an overwhelming feeling, and I was keen to see the list of participants in my category. There were only 12 competing in 40-45 age group – obviously I tried to suss them out and thought the Russian would be the toughest competitor. My coach was asking quite tough questions about the route, so I decided to go ride the race route to start feeling comfortable about the course layout. The route was predominately single track through pine forests with very fast downhill sections and the climbing had short sharp switch backs. With my technical ability and my strength in climbing I was starting to feel a lot more confident about the race route. I was happy and felt well prepped.
The day of the race arrived, I was so nervous when I saw the sign to Woodhill Forest that I wanted to vomit – never had I had this feeling before. I got myself ready, warmed up and headed to the starting pens. The Russian and I were put in the front – as we were the only foreigners – whilst the Kiwis lined up behind us. All the women started together in their allocated starting rows – that being 30yrs and upwards. There we were all lined up and ready to go. My heart rate was high. The adrenaline was pumping. My mind was focused. I was ready to bolt!
The start was on an uphill…..despite me being quite good at climbing, I was quickly put into my place, as the Kiwis shot up forwards. I was in 3rd place until the Forest. It was hard work, and I was trying to go as fast as I could – my coach’s words playing in my head “there’s only one way out…and that is flat out!”. Just before the Forest single track the Kiwi slipped sneakily in front of me. I tried to catch her, I really did, but just couldn’t close the gap. We did 3 laps totalling 21 km and 620m of climbing. And just like that, the race was over, 9 months of training finished…..it was a very weird feeling I must say. I finished 4th in the Vet category and took 8th place overall. No podium for me, but I raced my heart out (highest racing HR ever!!!). It was a very overwhelming experience to race at such a level, maybe I took on more than I could chew. I finished with a smile on my face, I enjoyed the route and felt I had accomplished a great achievement; I take my hat off to the Kiwis for the pace that they ride.
We returned to Auckland and went out to celebrate. The next few days that followed, I treated myself to Trout fly-fishing at Lake Taupo, accompanied by site seeing. Overall my trip to NZ was a pleasant one. I had visited Rotorua, known for volcanic geysers and the famous Redwood MTB Park. My dearest brother sent me on plenty of their nature walks through the forests and along the beach. I had cycled 80km around Auckland and the suburbs on an unofficial mini tour. NZ is surely a very picturesque country. The grass is green all year round. I really enjoyed the stay, the laid back attitude and the freedom. NZ is expensive travelling on the rand – I spent R26k over three weeks, excluding accommodation. The countryside is really beautiful, the people are friendly and helpful, and it’s just easy to get around. To end my trip we went to watch the triathlon leg of the WMG 2017. It was a miserable day, the rain had started which affected the cycle route and the sea was choppy and cold. The first real cold I felt since my arrival. One thing about NZ is that the rain does not stop them; their attitude is “If you wait for the rain to stop, then you will end up being a hermit”. So most of the Kiwis walk around looking like drowned rats and it doesn’t bother them. Unlike us in SA, we tend to hide away from the wetness LOL. One thing is for sure, NZ is not flat! At every turn there is a hill, which is probably why they are such good athletes. Downhill racing is a big attraction in NZ, where there are the best tracks in the world. The WMG was a fantastic experience, and I would recommend it to anyone over the age of 40 to set your goals and go and compete at such a level. You get to feel like an Olympic athlete, even if it’s for just a little bit. "
To find out more about the World Masters Games and other Masters events visit: http://www.imga.ch