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Commonwealth athlete Peter Barber from Gravesend still competing at age of 81

Like many sports fans Peter Barber is looking forward to watching this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Fifty-six years ago the 81 year old from Wilmington was in the Games himself when they were held in Cardiff and he still takes part in competitive sport.

When he was 60 he broke the British Masters Record for the hammer throw, came second in the hammer in an Australian national athletics championship, ran two London Marathons, won a Kent athletics championships medal, represented his country in masters championships across Europe and ran against Roger Bannister in front of crowds at the White City Stadium in London.

His first foray into running was in 1951 when, aged 17, he beat 400 other runners to win the Southern Counties Youth Cross Country race in Eastbourne.

He said: “From then on I said ‘Football? Forget it’. Athletics and running is your game.”

Mr Barber has been involved in sport for decades and played rugby for Gravesend Rugby Football Club in the 1960s.

He still practises the hammer throw, shot put and javelin and is hoping to represent Great Britain in the hammer in Turkey at the European Veterans Championships in August.

He said: “Each year I say ‘I think I’ve done my share of athletics and I’m going to retire’ but then I meet up with a couple of friends and they say ‘no you’ve got to keep going and keep fit.

"Don’t keep going to break records, just do it for your own personal bests’.

“The camaraderie is very good. You’re not throwing on your own. You’re all competing against each other, the adrenaline is running through your body and when the hammer flies out it feels good.”

Preparation for sporting events nowadays is all-important.

Whether it is football, athletics or any other competition, sports scientists and nutritionists spend hours making sure athletes are in the best shape.

However, when Mr Barber started out running for Darnley Athletics Club in Central Avenue, Gravesend, as a young man, the only thing he had after practice was apple juice and a hot bath.

Even now the veteran said that his secret to success was simple.

He said: “I don’t eat fatty foods and I keep away from junk food. I just eat healthily, train and enjoy it.”

Mr Barber said that representing his country was a wonderful feeling but he was never overcome by the sense of occasion.

He said:“I take it in my stride. I’ve found I have a gift for athletics.”

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