OUR GOLDEN OLDIES
Veteran swimmers, runners and martial arts experts are staving off their dotage by enjoying the thrill and challenge of sport.
High-kicking Laurie Hardy, 80, qualified swimming life-guard Nancy Kelly, 92, and runner Brian Ashwell, 80, are in no mood to let advancing years dim their sporting passions.
They are among dozens of senior citizens to be honoured at Leicester-Shire and Rutland Sport's 2012 Oldest Athlete Celebration, which takes place later this month.
Laurie, of Markfield, is a fifth Dan Taekwondo black belt, in training for his sixth, while Nancy is the oldest member of Melton's Waterfield leisure centre.
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"I'm not ready for the armchair and pipe and slippers just yet, not by any means," said Laurie, who has been with the James Freer Tae Kwon Do School, in Leicester, for 29 years.
"I read an advert for the club in the Leicester Mercury, went along to see a demonstration at the YMCA and was hooked," he said. "It's funny because I was in my early 50s and even then I was the oldest one there."
Laurie trains with the school three times a week.
"I used to compete when I was younger but now I just concentrate on the patterns. It's taken six years of hard work but I'm going for my sixth Dan black belt in October.
"It's a great sport for building strength and flexibility and I'd recommend it to anyone, no matter what age."
Laurie, who was nominated by a member of the club, said: "I feel a little embarrassed but very flattered. I hope it encourages more older people to get involved – it's never too late."
Nancy, of Melton, who makes the half-hour walk to the leisure centre pool every week, believes swimming is in her genes.
"My mother was a keen swimmer and so are my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren," she said.
"I've been swimming since I was a little girl and just kept on going.
"I try to keep as active as possible and it's worth the effort because I feel very well. Swimming is a great sport for all ages, but especially for older people because there is no impact on your joints."
Another sporting inspiration is Brian Ashwell, 80, of West End Running Club, Leicester. He has competed in track running, road racing and speed walking events since the 1950s.
In July, he won the over-80s 5,000m at the British Track and Field Masters Championship.
Friend and jogging partner John Offord, 65, who nominated him for an award, said: "Brian is an inspiration and a great source of encouragement for other runners.
"He has to be seen to be believed and is a smashing bloke who deserves recognition."
The celebration evening will be held at The Link Hotel, Loughborough, on October 1, where senior sportsmen and women will receive awards in six categories. Nominations close next Friday.
Andy Reed, chairman of Leicester-Shire and Rutland Sport, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for the lifetime achievements of our long-standing participants to be celebrated in what will truly be a day to remember.
"We hope this will also inspire others to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that result from regular participation in sport and physical activity."
To nominate an inspirational older sportsman or woman, or for more information about the awards evening, call Andrew Watson, sport development officer at Leicester-Shire and Rutland Sport, on 01509 564872 or e-mail:
Alternatively, visit the website: