How a 75-year-old is setting records on the track

Harnek Toor was a record-breaking athlete as a young man. Today, he is breaking even more as a 75-year-old competitor in track and field.

By Grace Kennedy | March 24, 2022 |5:00 am

This year is starting off as a record-setting year for Harnek Toor, but the 75-year-old Aldergrove resident is used to setting records by now.

The senior track and field star set two new records during the BC Masters Indoor Championship this February: one in weight throw, with a 16-pound ball on a handle, and one in triple jump. But in 2021 he had set records as well—setting a Canadian record with a 15.55-metre weight throw in October, and crushing a previous record by three metres in the super weight throw.

Toor’s success is partly because of practice. Living in Aldergrove, Toor spends a few days a week practicing his throws with the Ultra Throw Athletic Club and hits the track a few times before competition days.

But it is also because of his years of experience. Toor has competed since he was a university student in India’s Jammu and Kashmir University. There, he set records that he believes are still in place today. (He says he ran 200 metres in 21.8 seconds one time: “I could have done better in the synthetic track, but at that time it was not prevailing anywhere in India.” That time is barely a second slower than India’s 200-metre national record.)

Today, Toor is on the road to the World Masters championships in Finland. We catch up with him to talk about his history in the sport, and why he keeps going even as he ages.

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FVC: If we can go back to before your university time, what got you started in track and field in the first place?

Toor: I have four brothers. I’m the youngest in the family. My eldest brother, he was very good in athletics. In the Punjab University in India level, he was very good. So I wanted to follow his footsteps. I used to practice with them. And I used to play soccer with him. So I picked up various events from watching him perform in various competitions.

Toor competed in track and field at Jammu and Kashmir University, and then later with the Indian Army. A long-jump injury stopped him from competing in 1975, and he didn’t take it up again until he was in his 60s.

FVC: When did you come to Canada?

Toor: I came here in 2012. February 2012.

FVC: What made you decide to come?

Toor: I have two sons, both of them are here. One is Abbotsford. The second one was in Aldergrove and I wanted to join them. Because I had since retired from the army and thereafter I was a free man. And I came here and joined them.

FVC: Did you start competing in the Masters competitions when you came to the area or did you start when you were in India as well?

Toor: In India, it is not a very popular event. Generally it’s held at the state level. And that was an ad hoc type of tournament they have and it’s not held at a very, very congenial place. So I didn’t take part there. Once I landed up here, I read in the newspapers, the Abby News, there is a 55-plus games in the month of May 2012. So I got interested. I rang up the Greyhound Club’s Harold Morioka. So, he said ‘You better come over’… So, I started practicing with them. I took the membership of Greyhound Track and Field Club… and thereafter, I took part in a 55-plus game in five events. I won in long jump. I was number two in triple jump. And I was number three in high jump.

FVC: What was it like for you to be back on the track in this competitive way?

Toor: I was feeling excellent and top of the world because I wanted to reshape my health and wanted to come into a competition that excited me.

Since that first competition in 2012, Toor hasn’t stopped. But as he’s gotten older, he’s changed his practice. Rather than competing in jumps like he used to, Toor specialized in throws, practicing with the Ultra Throw Club twice a week. He continues to do sprints, but those are secondary competitions for him now.

FVC: How do you see your future as an athlete going? Are you just gonna keep on going until you can’t throw anymore?

Toor: So long as I’m on my two legs, I’ll keep on participating. Because this is a sliding scale. Now, I do understand that the physical capability is reducing every day. And every year it has to go down. And my performance will keep on sliding. And I hope to take part, so long as I’m active in keeping good health.

FVC: Do your sons come and support you when you’re doing your competitions?

Toor: My son is supporting me all these years, because he pays for my training, he pays for my equipment. He pays for my transportation, boarding and lodging wherever I go. I’ve been going up to even Toronto. I went twice in 2017 and 2019 to take part in the [North, Central America and Caribbean Region of World Masters Athletics Championships]. And I did very well in both these competitions… So he’s watched me actively.

Now I am looking forward to going to Tampere [in Finland] for the World Masters competition from the 29th of June to the 10th of July this year. So if I prepare myself well for the next three months, I’ll be there.

FVC: One last question: for other seniors who might want to be getting back into the sport of their youth, what sort of advice would you have for them?

Toor: If that is your determination, then you have to set your priorities. At this age, our priority should be to keep physically fit, and mentally robust. If we don’t do that, you are on the sliding path. You can’t stem that slide, it is likely to become faster and faster. And this is the practice or the thinking of the mental makeup, which you can stem or slow down that slide. So that’s my priority. Keep good health. Be fit both mentally and physically and do well.

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Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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