Match of the Week celebrates the seniors of 2012
AND SO it ends. The full-time whistle is about to blow on the year of the Olympics and the Paralympics.
The year of the Special Olympics too. And the Youth Olympics. There have been Olympics for everybody in 2012 it seems.
Think again. The veterans, or seniors as they call them in the United States, were the ones left out. These are usually sportsmen and women aged 40 and over.
There was no Veterans' Olympics in 2012. There has never been any and none is planned.
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Admittedly there are World Masters Games every four years but, with the O word missing from the title, they are like chocolate liqueurs in toffee wrappers – made of good stuff, weak on packaging.
How much more would they be noticed if World Masters champions were Olympic Masters champions?
And how much greater the incentive to fight advancing years when Olympic medals are at stake?
During London 2012, BBC World News ran a short item on the World Masters Games, describing it as "an Olympic Games equivalent" but pointing out that its 27,000 participants was more than double the number who took part in the Olympics.
Curious to know why veterans are missing out, this column contacted the International Masters Games Association (IMGA) in Lausanne, Switzerland, an organisation "recognised and patronised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)" but independent.
We were told: "The IMGA believes that the World Masters Games is a sports festival, while the IOC and the Olympic Games focus more on elite sport.
"For this reason we will continue to call our events Masters Games and not Masters Olympics."
But in the same way Paralympians are elite in their field, so are Masters champions. This column salutes them and all veterans who take their sport seriously.
Over the past 12 months, Match of the Week has attended numerous contests – some in Olympics sports, others not – where age was left behind in the locker room. This was what we saw.
Gill Hevingham, 57: Scores twice as Taw Valley beat Chard 9-1 in a West Clubs Women's League hockey match.
"She's 57? She's not.Wow, good effort," says Katy Jones, the full back who is marking her.
Still active in a game she first played aged 12, Hevingham has been a county netball player too.
Still not impressed? Her world championship medals in athletics, surf lifesaving and inshore rescue boat racing should do it.
Aged related: Carol Ann Duffy, 57, Britain's first female poet laureate.
Jorg Gawrisch, 47: Less than a year after picking up a table tennis bat for the first time since he lived under East German communism, Gawrisch, wins the North Devon League second division singles title.
Behind the Iron Curtain, Gawrisch had risen to No 3 in his age group.
Fourteen years after the Berlin Wall collapsed, he moved to England and eventually to Hartland.
He rediscovered table tennis after reading about his local team in the village newsletter.
Age related: Lennox Lewis, 47, ex-world heavyweight boxing champion.
Andy Koval, 45: In a top-of-the-table North Devon Tennis League match, Koval steps in prematurely after knee surgery when Barnstaple Tarka A are a player short. He wins one and loses one in a 12-12 draw with Westward Ho A!
Brought up in Liberia, next door to soul legend Nina Simone, he was coached in football by 1956 FA Cup Final hero Bert Trautmann.
After moving to England, brothers Andy and Sam got into tennis through their stepfather, John Walsh.
Age related: Nick Clegg, 45, deputy Prime Minister
Nick Rogers, 57: The oldest player by 26 years in the Hatherleigh first XI who lose to Barton in a top-two Devon Cricket League B division clash.
"They are all young enough to be my children – and fortunately none of them are," jokes Rogers of his team-mates.
"He's performing, so we can't really get rid of him," says Hatherleigh skipper Mark Lake.
But is his age not hurting? "If I bowl 13 overs on a Saturday, I can usually walk by Wednesday," says Rogers.
Age related: Bruce Willis, 57, Die Hard movie hero.
Eric Bristow, 55: The five-time world champion probably has other things on his mind – like packing his jungle hat – as he is beaten by Woolacombe farmer Adam Wyatt in a Legends of Darts night in Barnstaple.
From here, Bristow joins up with Ant and Dec for I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! which starts ten days later.
Wyatt misses his first shot at double ten for victory, leaving Bristow a 102 finish, which he misses.
Wyatt needs no second chance and the celebrity is out of there.
Age related: Stephen Fry, 55, literary and comic genius.
John Ward, 43: Wins the North Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Marathon at his first attempt, two weeks after he won a 32-mile race on Dartmoor.
An off-road event, North Devon is harder than the average marathon and, struggling with injuries he suffered while training for a conventional road marathon, Ward moved to tougher challenges. "The ultras are a new interest to me and a new way of testing myself," he says.
Age related: Ed Miliband, 43, Labour party leader
David Silverleaf (pictured), 84, and David Trett, 85: After the release of Ping Pong, a film about the over-80s table tennis world championships in Inner Mongolia, two octogenarians meet in Instow in a North Devon division three match.
"They are not just standing there knocking the ball backwards and forwards, they are there to win," says Silverleaf's team captain.
The evidence? Silverleaf accuses Trett of not playing fair, of disguising his service illegally and serving before he was ready. Winning matters.
Age related: Sir Bruce Forsyth, 84, Strictly Come Dancing presenter, Roger Moore, 85, former James Bond.
Paddy Pinn, 53: Twisty's Tornados have been Ilfracombe and District Pool League champions for the last ten years and Pinn, a team member all that time, is still going strong.
Against Headhunters, their main challengers this season, it is down to Pinn in the deciding match.
The teams are squared at 2-2 and Pinn leads the best-of-three concluding match 1-0. But Steve Coles takes the next two and Headhunters leapfrog Tornados at the top of the league.
A piqued Pinn insists Tornados will still win the league.
Age related: Simon Cowell, 53, Mr X Factor.
Paul Murch, 52: Responding to talk from within the Bideford Skittles League that Murch and Andrew Braunton had just completed the most remarkable comeback locals had seen, MOTW goes to see them take on league leaders Langtree B.
Too late. The miracle workers have lost their powers.
Having scored 42 in the last rub to snatch victory for Mashers over Wallabies a fortnight earlier, now they need 41 to beat Langtree B but they fall well short.
Age related: Hugh Grant, 52, actor.