30 September 2015
It wasn’t until 1984 that Dennis Peck really took up athletics. He was 50-years-old.
Now – at the age of 81 – Peck will compete in his ninth Australian Masters Games this October, and is quietly confident the national high jump record of 1.19m is his for the taking.
It wasn’t until Peck emigrated from England to Australia that he discovered track and field. There was the odd foray into high jump during his school days at Hull Grammar School in Yorkshire, but it was largely rugby that had always been his passion.
Peck moved to South Australia in his late twenties, and over a span of 15 years won more gold medals than he cares to remember. All of them were in athletics, but none were his.
“I’ve finished second more times than anybody,” he laughed.
As a physical education teacher at Townsend School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Adelaide, Peck acted as a guide-runner and coach for children he calls “incredible athletes”.
Peck shadowed his students in every race, an enabler to help them reach their potential and enjoy freedom away from their disability.
“All these kids, they’ve got a disability but their bodies are still able,” said Peck.
“They are quite capable and they knew they were good, they knew they could run and they knew they could win.”
“There’s nothing they couldn’t do, they just needed to be led. If you are blind, to run in freedom is a beautiful thing.”
When the Australian Masters Games were held in Adelaide for the second time in 1999, Peck realised he too was capable, and he too could win.
“I’d always competed with and for other people, but never on my own for myself.”
“That’s why I went to the Masters, because it was a bit of freedom for me as the years went by.”
“And I don’t mind beating some of the younger blokes while I’m at it.”
In 2015, the 15th edition of the Games will again be held in Adelaide – exactly where it all began for the Tumby Bay resident in 1999.
“I remember I went down, paid my registration and said I’ll do athletics because anyone can run, jump and throw – and you don’t need a lot of training,” he explains.
“I asked what I could get for my registration fee, and was told I could either enter one event or all of them.”
“Well, being a Yorkshireman, the value for money there was too good to refuse!”
True to his word and wallet, Peck entered all things athletics.
Like the boy in the schoolyard at Hull Grammar many years before, he won gold in the high jump and has never been beaten since. It’s his favourite event.
The 15th Australian Masters Games will be held in Adelaide, October 3-10, featuring more than 10,000 participants from across Australia and around the world.
For further information regarding the Australian Masters Games, please visit www.australianmastersgames.com.
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