WMA 2023 Masters Athletes of the Year

World Masters Athletics (WMA) has announced Paul Forbes, 66, of Great Britain as the 2023 Male Athlete of the Year and Sue McDonald, 59, of the U.S. as the Female Athlete of the Year.

Masters Athletics in 2023 was another year filled with great competitions on the track and road plus in the field. There were many fantastic performances, including hundreds of national, regional and world records, making it difficult for WMA Regions and WMA’s Statistics Team to choose nominees. Once again, WMA Council agreed that athletes who had competed at their national, their regional or WMA championships were eligible for consideration.

Paul Forbes, 66, Great Britain

What does it mean to you to be nominated for this honor?

Gives me the opportunity to express not only my gratitude to the many people who help me over the season, but for them also to be acknowledged by the wider athletic community. My small but successful masters training squad consists of Graeme Gemmell, Paul McMonagle and Laura Haggarty (all are masters finalists at European/world level), and each contribute to our collective success. It goes, almost without saying, that the nomination acknowledges the support of my wife Kim. A successful athlete in her own right, she is very supportive of all my endeavors.

What are your goals in Masters Athletics for 2024?

My goals remain remarkably consistent from year to year. My aim is to train and race to the best of my ability, What changes is my approach to each new season, planning a schedule to ensure improvement in my running, challenging myself over new distances, adapting my mindset to cope with any physical decline in speed or strength. These goals are set against and within a sustainable framework of physical and mental well-being. Something which is critical in today’s society and advancing years.

What Master/s Athletes do you admire and why?

I admire anyone with the willpower and determination to get out of bed each morning and try to make a difference, whether for themselves or for others. Positive attitudes, glass half full not half empty sort of thing. I am fortunate that through my active participation in Masters Athletics much of my time is spent in contact with such individuals.

What else would you like people reading the announcement to know about you?

Although past retirement age, I remain in employment as a part-time care and support worker for those more elderly and infirm than myself, I struggle to give up the satisfaction of the day-to-day interaction I have with my clients and I expect to be working for the foreseeable future. Much of my satisfaction these days comes less from my own achievements and more from my direct or extended family, along with my training group and a few other athletes I advise on an ad-hoc basis.

Sue McDonald, 59, U.S.

What does it mean to you to be nominated for this honor?

The nomination for the WMA Athlete of the Year award is the highest honor I have ever achieved in athletics. I have always had so much respect for all masters athletes as I feel each masters athlete is a special person with the courage to line up on that start line. To be considered one of the top athletes in the world is very special to me as I know there are so many talented Masters Athletes which makes it challenging for the committee to choose. My goal has always been to work as hard as I can to reach my full potential as I age and to be recognized for that hard work makes me proud. I am very grateful to the committees who nominated me for WMA Athlete of the Year award – Thank you!

What are your goals in Masters Athletics for 2024?

My goals for 2024 are # 1 to stay healthy and # 2 to continue to train hard to run my age in the 400m, run 2:20 or under in the 800m and earn multiple WMA Championship titles in Sweden. These are huge goals but I am excited for the challenge to see what I can do. As always, it is the journey that I enjoy the most such as the community of runners I train with and race against, the new people I meet along the way and the things that I learn from every race and each new season.

What Masters Athlete(s) do you admire and why?

Two athletes come to mind when I am asked what masters athletes I admire. One, is Lesley Hinz (USA), and the other is Karla Del Grande (Canada). Lesley, (2018 Runner-up WMA Female Middle Distance Athlete of the Year and USATF Masters Hall of Fame Inductee) was the athlete who inspired me to make the switch from jumping/vaulting to back to running again. I admire Lesley because of her passion for the sport and her amazing perseverance. She handles adversity like a champ and makes an incredible team with her husband/coach, Tom Hinz (who also coached me for several years). Lesley not only inspires me but she helped me navigate masters athletics when I was a newbie in the masters community.

Karla Del Grande, (WMA Athlete of the Decade, 2010-2019 along with other honors such as WMA Female Sprints Winner for multiple years) is a woman I had always heard of since I started competing as a runner in masters athletics but never knew her until we met in Poland at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships. Karla is very humble but at the same time, she has this fire inside to do her absolute best to try to win every race she enters. Karla is highly respected amongst her peers and is always offering to help others in any way she can.

What else would you like people reading the announcement to know about you?

I am a wife and mother of 3 (Chiara 30; Nicolas 20; Cruz 18). I am passionate about my running and strength coaching and always receive a lot of joy when my athletes try their best and do well. My philosophy is that age is just a number and I try not to put limits on myself. One doesn’t have to think that they will always get slower as they age…I am proof of that! I have an amazing and supportive husband, Michael, and I have a coach who knows how to get the most out of me while I continue to experience joy doing what I love….all track and field events!

For more information, visit World Masters Athletics at https://world-masters-athletics.org/

Photos courtesy of Rob Jerome and Dave Reid.