The Indian contingent to the inaugural Asia Masters Pacific Games 2018 in Penang is the largest after Malaysia among the total number of 5,542 competing in the nine-day Games.
The Indian contingent comprise 319 athletes and come from two Masters association – Masters Games Federation India – MGFI(248 athletes) and India Masters Games Federation (35) – several veteran sports association and individual entries.
MGFI is the official Masters association in India and recognised by International Masters Games Association (IMGA).
IMGA are the owners and hold the rights to the World Masters Games and regional Masters Games. The president is Kai Holm from Denmark and was the former president of the Danish Olympic Committee.
Malaysia as host have entered 3,325 athletes for the 22 sports in the Games, while total foreign participation is 2,217. Australia have the third largest contingent of 286, while Japan have 241.
The uniqueness about this Games is that individually entries are also allowed to be registered and athletes represent their respective sports and not by nation as a whole for the Games.
Without doubt veteran or Masters sports, is big in India unlike in Malaysia where is it only big in several sports like football and athletics.
Malaysia Olympian Association (MOA) exists in Malaysia and although they have more than 300 Olympians listed with them from various sports since Malaysia first competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, it is surprising they have not entered a contingent in this Games.
But in India everyone wants to compete in the veteran or Masters events, so much so that there are so many break-away groups and many compete as individuals.
In Penang, there are three other groups from individual entries from Pune, Mumbai and Lucknow.
“Sometimes it is cheaper to travel as an individual as we can look for the cheapest flight and hotels. We are just interested to compete because of the love of sports, to keep fit and healthy, visit new countries, experience new cultures and food, and make new friends. We are not interested in the luxury of accommodation or flights with good connections,” said Sanjay Pansare, a retired automobile industry officer.
“I used to be in one of the associations, but decided to compete individuallyin Masters games or tournaments which allow individual entries,” said Pansare, a cancer survivor patient who competed in five swimming and three athletics events.
Pansare has come for the Games with 15 friends who registered individually from Pune.
“I am a cancer survivor and continued to compete after only ten months after undergoing an operation, 25 radiation and eight chemotherapy treatments,” said the 60-year who if here with his wife (Nanda) who competed in swimming.
That is the kind of passion that prevails among Indian senior citizens and it is no surprise that they have a large contingent at this Games.