Athletics queen Rosemary is still going strong – aged 79

Rosemary Payne
Rosemary Payne

SHE may be on the verge of entering her ninth decade, but the competitive flame still burns as fiercely today for Rosemary Chrimes, as it did when she contested the 1972 discus final at the Munich Olympic Games.

Now 79, Rosemary – known to many in her native Kelso as ‘Bud’ Charters – has racked up a host of world records and gold medals in veterans’ athletics since first entering the over-40s class back in 1975.

Rosemary Payne an Olympian discus thrower from Kelso.

Rosemary Payne an Olympian discus thrower from Kelso.

It was while on a flying visit to Kelso this week to meet up with relatives and friends, that Rosemary, who has lived in Birmingham since 1963, took time to speak to TheSouthern.

After a career which had seen her represent Great Britain in 50 international athletics meetings, win gold at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh – where her then husband, hammer thrower Howard Payne, also took gold – win five WAAA titles and 11 Scottish and Midland titles, as well as becoming an Olympic finalist – Rosemary had decided to retire.

“Howard and I had finished in 1974. We thought since we were both now in our 40s it was time to call it a day,” Rosemary explained.

“But then the vets events had just started and we thought, ‘Hey, this is great, there’s something we can still do just for fun’.

“So we went to Canada for the world masters event in 1975. There were hardly any events for women, only sprints, but that was the beginning and it got me interested.”

Rosemary admits that after having been an athlete for so long by the time she joined the vets scene, it would have been difficult to just switch off the competitive gene.

“I’d been doing full-time GB internationals up to ’74. Then through from ’78 to ’88 I was GB junior team manager, so was very much in touch with athletics.

“So I was doing a bit of vets events, not taking it too seriously and really just kind of relying on what I’d done before.”

One meeting, however, sticks out in Rosemary’s memory and was to prove a turning point.

The Japanese city of Myazaki hosted the World Masters Championships in 1983.

“There were folk there from all over, including Russia, Europe, Australia and Canada,” said Rosemary.

“So it was big stuff and I was really chuffed I did well, and got to see a country I’d never been to before.”

Four golds and a silver was Rosemary’s haul from Japan that year and, while she had specialised as a discus thrower with a bit of occasional shot putt in her pre-vets days, she now found herself in sprinting and even high jump contests, as well as the throwing events.

“I always remember in Myazaki meeting some Russians I had not met since 1963. Back in the 60s, the Russians were top dogs in the throwing events and they beat us regularly, so it was with great relish that I beat them in Japan and got a bit of revenge,” Rosemary laughed.

While there are serious levels of fitness still to be found in veteran athletes competing in the 40 and over and 50 and over classes, Rosemary admits it gets harder to maintain levels of ability.

“You deteriorate physically as you get older – there’s no getting away from that, no matter what you do. I can’t even do what I did myself 10 years ago.

“But when you are up against people from your own peer group, that’s different. There’s always this competitive edge, so I’m always looking to see what records I can break.

“Next year I’ll be 80 so, if I’m still alive and kicking, I’ll save up and go to Brazil for the next World Masters event.”

Rosemary says she vowed long ago if it ever got to the stage she was the only person competing in a class or she felt she would let herself down, she would call time on her sporting career.

“I’m getting close to that now, but if I can make 80 and set a few records, I think it will be curtains for me.”

Long-associated with the Lozell’s Harriers club during her career, Rosemary – she has twin grown-up sons and is a grandmother of four – now turns out for the small Halesowen club, located near her home in the Edgbaston suburb of Birmingham.

And one last question – why called Bud? “Because my name’s Rosemary. It was ‘aww, little Rosemary, little rosebud’, when I was young, so I got called Bud..”