Ken Cook, 71, (left), Craig McBrien, 47, and Jim McCullagh, 56, from Woolgoolga SLSC, pose for a portrait at the 2011 ALLPHONES Masters NSW Surf Life Saving Championships, held at Kingscliff.
Ken Cook, 71, (left), Craig McBrien, 47, and Jim McCullagh, 56, from Woolgoolga SLSC, pose for a portrait at the 2011 ALLPHONES Masters NSW Surf Life Saving Championships, held at Kingscliff. Jerad Williams

At 71, Ken's like a fine wine

SURF life saving has not only taken 71-year-old Ken Cook all around the world, it has also kept him healthy.

Cook, a Woolgoolga competitor, has competed at World Masters games in South Africa and New Zealand, but credits the sport for keeping him active.

“I moved out west in outback Queensland from 2003 to 2008 and for those five years I didn’t swim,” he said.

“As a result I suffered health problems. But now I’m competing in surf lifesaving again I’ve never felt better.”

Cook was also buzzing about his performance in yesterday’s masters competition of the State Life Saving Championships, where he picked up a bronze for his swim in the 170-year Taplin relay.

Cook competed in the event alongside Jim McCullagh, 56, and the “young gun” of the group, Craig McBrien, 47.

It was the small club’s first masters medal in the water.

And McBrien was in awe of how Cook’s swim leg held the team together.

“At 71 years old, you have to allow for a few opponents to overtake him,” McBrien said.

“He ended up doing well and swimming as fast as some 40-year-olds.

“Ken wasn’t going to participate at first, but we convinced him to.”

While Cook did the swimming in the Taplin event, McBrien was board paddler and McCullagh was Woolgoolga’s ski paddler.

McBrien was rapt his team picked up bronze.

Woolgoolga is only a small town of about 4500 people. It has also been just a year since McCullagh won Woolgoolga’s first ever state masters medal in the 2km run at Swansea Belmont.

There, he picked up bronze.

“This was way beyond our expectations,” McBrien said.

“We were only hoping to make the top 10.”

Cook, who started out as a nipper 62 years ago, said age would not be a barrier for him for at least another year.

“I want to go to my fourth World Masters title in Adelaide next year and I want to be competitive,” said the former World Masters champion, who picked up gold medals from 1993 to 2000 in tube racing.

“My health’s pretty good right now – I have no problems.”

Following Woolgoolga’s bronze in the Taplin, McCullagh went on to pick up the club’s first ever masters gold medal in the 55-years 2km run.

Rebecca Wright also won gold in the female over-30 years sprint and relay.

And late in the day, Cook took out gold in the over-70 years tube race. “For a small club to do this we’re stoked,” McCullagh said.



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