For the first time in history, Masters athletes were able to stake their claim for glory alongside the world’s best cross country athletes at the 2023 World Athletics Cross Country Championships. The historic agreement between World Athletics, the Local Organising Committee and WMA saw the inaugural WMA Short Course Cross Country Championships held on the same course in Bathurst, Australia on 18-19 February 2023.
Hot weather, sun, sand, hills, mud, running between grape vines and kangaroos joining in, faced the athletes competing in the first World Athletics Cross Country Championships to be held in the southern hemisphere and this was the first occasion that events for Masters athletes were held at a World Athletics Championships. It was a great success and all who contributed to the overall organisation are to be congratulated. The combination of elite events, Masters events and mass participation races gave spectators a very enjoyable and exciting weekend.
Almost 270 Masters men and women from fifteen countries entered the events of a mixed 2 X 2km relay on the Saturday and 4km (70+) and 6km (35-69) on the Sunday being the inaugural WMA Short Course Cross Country Championships. The course was a great cross country challenge. A hard but safe course as an event like this should be.
Mixed relay teams on Saturday did not mind an earlier start time to avoid the summer heat in Australia. However, they could not avoid the heat of competition! Stephen Stewart, AUS, was slightly behind Benjamin Bruce, USA, when he passed to Olga Firsova in the 35-49 contest. Olga outran April Lund, USA, to finish in 13:50, the fastest time of the day. The US team’s 14:11 earned them a world championship silver medal. Australian teams Lauren Mitchell & Russell Dessaix-Chin, 14:36 (bronze) and Anna Kasapis & Stephen Dinneen, 14:44, finished within a minute of the winners.
The closest race of the day was in the 50-59 age group where the top five teams, Krishna Stanton & Stephen Moneghetti, 15:18, Julie Norney & John Meagher, 15:27, Karen Blay & David O’Brien, 15:43, Charlotte Middleton & Ken Wilson, 15:49, and Beverley Thomas & Antony Rickards, 16:00, all from Australia, were within 42 seconds of each other.
Former Olympians, Krishna Stanton, W55, AUS, and Steve Moneghetti, M60, AUS, who won the 55+ relay on Saturday, and M55 Shaun Creighton, AUS, were also victorious on Sunday.
Other 6k runners earning the top podium spot were W40 April Lund, USA, W45 Anna Munro, AUS, W60 Victoria Gunn, AUS, W65 Margie Peat, NZL, M35 Oliver O’Sullivan, NZL, M50 Frédéric Gilbert, FRA, and M65 Ian Calder, NZL.
Registrations for this historic event exceeded expectations. The number of Masters Athletes entering the 2024 WA XC championships being held in Medulin, Istria, on the Adriatic coast of Croatia in February will soar with a typically large European contingent. Can’t wait to see you there.
Congratulations to all Masters athletes who competed in Bathurst. You showed the world that “age is no barrier” and that participation is the key to life-long fitness and good health.