January 20, 2024 2 min read
Robert Thomas (left), the Vice-Chairman of the USATF Masters Track & Field Committee, and Jerry Bookin-Weiner, the Chairman of the committee, were part of the effort to bring the 2025 World Masters Athletics championships to Alachua County, Fla. Photo by Rob Jerome.
By Ray Glier
A chance to compete internationally has been a touchstone for many senior athletes, but having to dig into their own pockets to fund expensive trips for world events was too much for many.
Since 2011, America's older track & field stars have had to go to Europe, Asia, and Australia for the World Masters Athletics championships and other big events.
The USA Track & Field Masters Committee saw a chance for a remedy and capitalized.
On Jan. 10, it was announced the U.S. and Alachua County, Fla., will host the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships in 2025.
Jerry Bookin-Weiner, the chairman of the USATF Masters Track & Field Committee, thinks more than a 1,000 U.S. masters athletes will enter the WMA Championships. Just the chance to compete on a world stage will be a draw to USATF events around the U.S. leading up to the WMA as athletes ask themselves, "Am I good enough?" or declare, "This will be a great experience."
Many athletes Geezer Jock has talked to had dreams of competing internationally when they were younger. Now they have a chance.
"We went after it because a WMA championship has not been in the U.S. since 2011 and our athletes are continually having to travel to Europe, Asia, and even Australia for these competitions," Bookin-Weiner said. "We are hoping that we will be able to attract strong U.S.-based bids for both indoor and outdoor WMA championships regularly in the future."
Prior to the bidding for the 2025 event, Robert Thomas, vice-chair of the USATF Masters Track & Field Committee, toured the site, a $38 million public/private Alachua County facility, which has a state-of- the-art 200 meter surface with a MONDO track. It is a sparkling new facility in what is known as Celebration Pointe in Gainesville, home to the University of Florida.
Thomas and Bookin-Weiner then pushed the idea forward. Bookin-Weiner said the event could attract 4,500 athletes, which would be an economic boom to the region.
Another reason the WMA on U.S. soil is a big deal is it should boost women's participation.
Women’s numbers in masters track & field in the U.S. are less than half that of the men. There are empty lanes at women’s events here. Having a shot at a world medal could fill those lanes with American women and could keep the women enthused for years to come.
“Increasing women’s participation is one of our focuses,” Bookin-Weiner said.
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