Oceania Masters to ring in new sport year

IF you were busy this Christmas period, spare a thought for the organisers of the Oceania Masters Athletics Championships.

While many central Victorians ran around doing their last-minute Christmas shopping, the OMAC team were busy putting the final preparations together for the nine-day event starting early in the new year.

From January 4 to 12, Bendigo will be taken over by more than 500 masters athletes aged 30 and above who will sprint, throw, jump and race for glory.

Many Bendigo landmarks will feature in what event manager Terry Hicks called "the friendly games".

Competition kicks-off with the decathlon and heptathlon on Saturday, January 4 and the program includes a 10km walk around Rosalind Park the next morning before the opening ceremony.

Competitors will then launch into the track and field events at the Latrobe University Bendigo athletics complex from Monday.

Bendigo Racecourse will also be used to host the 8km cross country race on Wednesday, January 8.

A four-lap circuit has been marked out around Rosalind Park and Lake Weeroona for the final event of the championships, the half-marathon on Sunday, January 12.

"Because it's staged over eight or nine days the opportunity's there for athletes to do quite a number of events," said Terry Hicks, who is also the Athletics Bendigo secretary and will be a competitor.

One competitor from Canberra is set for an action-packed championships after registering for almost 10 events in the 85-89-year-olds age group.

The Oceania fields, mostly made up of Australians and a 60-strong New Zealand contingent, will boast several world record holders.

Triathlete David Meade will be one of the headline Bendigo stars taking on Oceania's best.

"It's going to be a very high standard of competition in some of the events, but then there are other events where more casual athletes will take part," Hicks said. "There has been a strong response from Bendigo athletes, there's about 50 who have entered.

"We should do well," said Hicks, who has entered multi-sport events. "We've got a few who have won medals at these events in the past."

The Oceania championships are expected to tip millions of dollars into Bendigo's economy.

Entries for the event are now closed, except for the half-marathon which is also an open-age event. 

To enter, visit the competition's website www.omabendigo2014.com.au before midnight Friday, December 27.

The championships are rotated between Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands every two years.

Next year's City of Greater Bendigo-sponsored event will be the first time the city has staged the championships.

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