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Local athlete breaks Canadian Masters decathlon record

Damian Warner isn’t the only Canadian record-breaking decathlete that showed us all how it’s done this summer.

Damian Warner isn’t the only Canadian record-breaking decathlete that showed us all how it’s done this summer.

Prince George’s own masters athlete, Tuomas Ukonmaanaho, 76, broke the record for the men’s BC decathlon for 75-79 year-olds by more than 2,000 points and the Canadian record by more than 200 points.

“It turned out good,” Ukonmaanaho stated modestly.

Ukonmaanaho trains with the Prince George Track & Field Club and participated in the Greyhounds Multi Event that took place in Surrey at Bear Creek Park Athletics Centre August 7 and 8.

In the decathlon there are 10 events that occur over two days.

During the first day Ukon Tom, as he’s best known, competed in the 100 metre dash (17.63 seconds), long jump (2.98m), shot put (8.92m), high jump (1.12m) and the 400 metre race (1:18.72).

During the second day, he participated in the 80m hurdles (19.39 seconds), discus (22.06m), pole vault (2.05m), javelin (26.96m) and the 1500 metre race (8:10.39).

The age-rated point system sees older athletes compared to the best athletes in the world and ranked accordingly.

Ukonmaanaho’s efforts earned him a staggering 5,297 points, breaking the previous BC record of 3,153 points set by Danny Daniels in 2007 and the Canadian record of 5,071 set by Doug Renwick in 2017.

Ukonmaanaho was quick to set the record straight and believes the age-rated point system used in 2007 is different from the current one, but looking at some of the times and distances of Daniels’ record and comparing them to Ukonmaanaho’s performance, Ukon Tom outdid Daniels significantly in some of the events. Looking at the shot put, Ukonmaanaho threw almost two metres farther than Daniels, the discus farther by almost six metres and in the javelin he bested Daniels by a whopping eight metres. The real difference came as Daniels opted not to finish the 1500 metre run, which resulted in a zero point score compared to Ukonmaanaho’s 442 points earned for his efforts.

Ukonmaanaho wasn’t even sure he would run the grueling 1500 metre race after two days of competing with a sore left leg but once he got there a fellow competitor, Sven Donaldson, encouraged him to stay close to him as he offered to keep the pace. Ukonmaanaho wanted to finish under 10 minutes and blew through the race in just over eight minutes, surprising even himself, he said.

“That’s what we do - we help each other and encourage each other,” Ukonmaanaho said. “It was really nice of him - he said ‘just stick behind me, it’s going to be all right’ and so I did and it was.”

Ukonmaanaho has been waiting for the opportunity to participate in a masters decathlon for years. The hurdles heights and distance are set to be age appropriate and the open category in a decathlon hurdle sprint would be too much for the master athletes.

“Us old timers wouldn’t be able to run the high hurdles,” Ukonmaanaho pointed out.

Same goes for the shot put that male decathletes use to compete in the open category is a 7 kg and in Ukonmaanaho’s age category he throws a 4 kg shot put.

“It would have been impossible for us to do it,” he said.

Masters athlete decathlons are not held often as it’s such a big undertaking to host such an event and the Greyhounds Masters Track & Field Club in Surrey took it on and Ukonmaanaho was grateful for the opportunity.

Harold Marioka, the founder of the Greyhounds, personally called Ukonmaanaho to be sure he knew about the opportunity. There were only 10 spots open for the men’s competition and Ukonmaanaho was glad he got that call, he added.

Ukonmaanaho is no stranger to holding records. Currently he holds the BC records for 70-74 year-old men in the 100m and 200m sprints, is on the record-holding team for the 4x100m relay for men 65-69 and the men 60-64 4x400m and the men’s 70-74 4x400m. He also holds records for the 55+ BC Games in the 100m and 200m, in two age categories of 65-69 and 70-74, the 80m sprint hurdles in the 65-69 and the 4x400m powerwalk relay.

Ukonmaanaho credits his all-round athleticism to his youth when everyone in school where he grew up in Finland was encouraged to try all the events.

“We learned to do a little bit of everything,” Ukonmannaho said.

Sprinting is usually his best event.

“If my leg had been ok my 100m should have been my best,” he admitted.

Next Ukonmaanaho goes back to Surrey this weekend as the Greyhounds, the biggest masters track and field club in BC, host the BC Masters Championships Aug. 21 and 22.

“But for now I’m just going it take it easy,” he laughed.