74-years-old Noosaville resident Derek Mason is jetting off to Sydney today to win Gold thanks to a generous offer of sponsorship from Coolum Beach Bowls Club.
But, while he’s an active and valued member of the Club who plays bowls at least twice a week, Derek’s interstate sporting jaunt has nothing to do with bowls and everything to do with Powerlifting.
Mr Mason will head to Sydney today to compete in the 2012 Oceania Powerlifting and Bench Press Championships (on 7-9 December) in an effort to secure a National title in the 70 years & over Masters Bench Press division.
He already holds the national record for his age and weight group – which he increased to 82.5kg in January of this year after breaking the previous record (set by him in June 2011) of 80kg.
Even more surprising however is the fact that Mr Mason was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease eight years ago. He took up competitive weightlifting just two years ago to maintain his muscle tone after finding that swimming wasn’t working for him.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressively degenerative neurological disorder which affects the control of body movements and often leads to muscle wastage.
Symptoms appear as the degeneration of Dopamine-producing cells progresses and medication (artificial Dopamine in most cases) can help alleviate signs.
Although he takes medication, Derek’s dosage hasn’t increased since his diagnosis and he has noticed only very slight changes in his physical symptoms.
He and his wife Val run a successful Parkinson’s support group in Noosa, which advocates the regime of maintaining an exercise program, eating well and taking the correct dosage of medication.
As an ex-Jockey and with a background of serving England as one of the King’s mounted troops, Derek is not afraid of a little hard work and trains under coach Andy Logan at least four times a week.
While the results of his exercise regime and a healthy lifestyle are plain to see, Derek can only imagine how far his Parkinson’s would have progressed without the weight training.
“I started with swimming because I knew I had to keep up the power in the muscles, but I had problems with co-ordination,” he explained.
“Then I tried deep water running but that didn’t work because my left side was weaker than my right and I just kept going around in circles.”
Next stop was the gym and within two years, Derek’s competitive nature saw him able to powerlift more than his own body weight.
“I’m so grateful to the Coolum Bowls Club for their sponsorship. I’m a pensioner and without their support, I would never have been able to afford to go to these games,” he said.
For Bowls Club Chairman Ray McKenzie, the decision to support one of their own long term members was a simple one.
“From the club’s point of view, it’s with great pride that we can help Derek,” Mr McKenzie said.
“Whatever he’s needed to get to these games, we’ve covered and it’s so wonderful that one of our own can be supported; with thanks to the local community as well. We just hope he brings us back a gold medal!”
Over a dozen countries will come together for the two-day Oceania Powerlifting Championships and Derek will be competing in the 70yrs & Over Masters Benchpress division and lifting up to 66kg.