Francisco Machado, right, and Barry Sparkes in the 4x400 metre relay in Vernon. Jerald Walliser photo

Francisco Machado, right, and Barry Sparkes in the 4x400 metre relay in Vernon. Jerald Walliser photo

Masters track star prepares for another event

Francisco Machado is a sprinter and hurdler from Comox

When he first tried the sport, Francisco Machado found that sprinting wasn’t his thing. But after receiving some advice from a national-calibre athlete in his native Colombia, Machado started to represent his university at track meets.

These days, at age 73, the Comox resident continues to enter sprinting and hurdles events at the 55+ BC Games and other competitions.

“I used to play soccer and baseball,” Machado said. “When I was in school, they wanted someone to run some 100 and 200 metres to get points for the school. I decided OK. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but one day I met one of the best Colombian long distance runners…he told me what to do, and three months later I was competing for the university I was attending.”

He intended to run the 100 and 200 metres, but his coach told him he would be running one lap of the track — the gruelling 400 metres.

“I said, ‘No, that’s a marathon for me, don’t even mention it’,” he said, laughing.

Later, under the advisement of another coach, he became a hurdler. He was an alternate to represent his country at the Pan American Games.

“I became number three, actually, in South America, in the 400 metre hurdles,” Machado said.

More recently, he competed in the 100 metres at the North and Central American Masters Championships in Toronto.

“I made it to the finals but I got injured,” he said.

Machado had been living and working in Virginia before moving back to Canada in 2011. The following year, he competed for the first time at the BC Seniors Games, which became the 55+ Games. At the 2017 Games in Vernon, he won gold medals in the 200, 400, 300m hurdles and the 4×400 metre relay in the men’s 70-74 division. He was also part of a 4x100m relay team that set a Canadian record.

“And then, I competed in the 4×400 with the 65s, and I believe that we also had the Canadian record as well.”

This year at the 55+ Games in Kelowna, he plans to compete in sprints and hurdles, but not the 400m.

Machado mostly trains on his own, and occasionally with a Lower Mainland masters track club, The Greyhounds, run by Harold Morioka — a living legend of the B.C. track and field scene who was part of Machado’s team that set the national record.

“He’s an outstanding athlete. I’d pretty much say he’s my coach. He gives me a lot of advice.”

Another outstanding track athlete is Courtenay’s Rainer Sillantaus, who won the discus, shot put and javelin in the men’s 85-89-year age group in Vernon.

“We tell him (Sillantaus), the best thing that ever happened in British Columbia, is having these Games for these fantastic athletes, competing in so many divisions,” Machado said.

For information about the 55+ B.C. Games, visit 55plusbcgames.org