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Prince George masters track & field athlete brings home six gold medals from Canadian championships

Tuomas Ukonmaanaho, 77, has a new BC record in pole vault after returning home from the Canadian Masters Championships in Regina recently with six gold medals.

He's the first one to say he wishes there was more competition at the Canadian Master Championships held in Regina from July 29 to 31.

Tuomas Ukonmaanaho, 77, broke a BC record in pole vault with a leap of 2.35m to take first place in the M75 category of the event.

Not sure if it was Covid-19 related or people just didn't want to make that very long trip from parts of BC to Saskatchewan but Ukon Tom, as he's known in the sports world, is looking forward to the day there's more people participating once again.

Ukonmaanaho took first place in the 100m, 200m, 400m, shot put, javelin and pole vault.

Just to offer up some perspective on his speed, here's an example: when the results were first posted the list included all masters men from 35 years and older by who ran the fastest 200m sprint. Ukonmaanaho's name was ahead of a 35-year-old participant. His time was 31.24 seconds, his next competitor in his age category's time was 38.93.

Ukonmaanaho ran the 100m in 14.63 threw the javelin 27.91m, put the shot 9.30m and of course the pole vault was at the height of 2.35m. He broke the old BC record of 2.22m set by Gerard Dumas in 2010. Dumas tied his own BC record in 2013 and now nine years later Ukonmaanaho broke it.

Ukonmaanaho, a longtime member of the Prince George Track & Field Club, does not practice pole vault. It's a lot of work to get those mats out of the shed at Masich Place Stadium where the club practices twice a week and despite the offers, he doesn't think he'll ever get much better than he is right now so he said he just takes a couple of warm up leaps before the competition starts and then he's good to go.

The hardest part of the nationals was getting there and back, he said. It's a two-day drive each way.

"I was really glad to get a good night's sleep in my own bed when I got back home," Ukonmaanaho said.

And as far as all the hardware goes?

It's not what counts when it comes to the competition for the masters athlete.

"I met up with a friend on my way back from the competition - he's a farmer - I gave him one of the gold medals because he is the hardest working person I have ever met - he deserves it more than me," Ukonmaanaho smiled.

Any advice for those who are looking to get competition ready?

"Just do it," Ukonmaanaho said. "Just do it."

His next competition is a bit closer to home - hosted by the biggest masters athletic club in BC, the Greyhounds, the BC Masters Championships, are in Surrey August 13-14, after that is the Multi-Event hosted once again by the Greyhounds, in Surrey August 27-28 where Ukonmaanaho will once again take on the greatest track & field challenge - the decathlon. Ukonmaanaho is the current Canadian record holder in the M75 category and is hoping to best his own record of 5297 points, which ranks him third in the world.



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