The Jewish pole vaulter and high jumper proving age is no barrier

Rosalind Zeffertt and Roger Bruck excel at British Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Derby


It’s been another successful year for the Jewish community’s track and field athletes, with several continuing to show that age is no barrier as they star on the national stage.

This year’s British Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Derby drew a record 791 entries and saw Rosalind Zeffertt, the UK’s number one pole vaulter in the V60 (60-69) age group win the British title.

Having secured bronze at the World Masters Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland, earlier in the season, she said, “Pole vault is such a technical discipline and I’m pretty new to it, so the main reason I keep competing isn’t to win medals, but to try to do better each time, whether it’s a personal best or just a small technical improvement.

“I also really love the atmosphere because there’s something special about the pole vault community — they’re really encouraging and supportive of each other. I look for anything that’s a positive and then try to bring that to the next event.

“Torun was different because it was an international, and a new experience, so I was really happy to get the bronze — especially after having ended up in A&E with a back injury two weeks earlier. I’ll go back now to focusing on the UK meetings and continuing to work on technique.”

Also at the Derby meeting was former Maccabiah Games and GB Masters European gold medal winner Roger Bruck. The 84-year-old retained his national titles in both the high and long jump, with the high jump result securing his 20th top-spot UK ranking since 2008 in indoor and outdoor competition.

Speaking about what keeps him going, as well as planning ahead for next year, he says: “Training is surprisingly exhilarating with the adrenaline rush before competition never failing to raise spirits.

"In 2024, I’ll be the ‘baby’ in the 85-90 age group for the World Masters Athletics Championship in Sweden. It’s always good to have something to look forward to!”

Elsewhere, senior athletes Hannah Viner and Tomer Tarragano both achieved a personal best at the annual Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs.

The event regularly attracts a line-up of elite national and international athletes and saw Viner improve her personal best by more than a minute in recording 34:49.0, while Tarragano’s 29:19.87 places him sixth in the UK U23 rankings.

Sophie Dowson, 24, whose previous best pole vault was 3.95m, cleared four metres several times during the year, raising her PB to 4.06m and finished third in the Welsh Senior Championships at Cardiff in June.

In the junior ranks, Pinni Bayvel-Zayats, 17, improved his 800m and 1,500m times to 2:06.77 and 4:16.96 respectively at Watford Harriers open meetings in June, while Jayden Klein, 18, achieved PBs of 11.77 and 23.66 in the 100m and 200m during the early season.

Finally, sprinter Sarah Nachshen, mother of middle-distance runner Gilad, celebrated only her third season since returning to athletics by helping Barnet & District AC to win the Southern Counties Veterans League.

Off the track, the Jewish community continues to be represented at senior level in coaching and officiating.

Colin Godfrey, whose Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers (SBH) contingent includes Peter Bayvel-Zayats and Jayden Klein, trained several athletes to Maccabiah success last year including Joshua Fisher (1,500m gold), Sam Greenstein (3,000m silver) and Rachel Pearlman (800m silver).

National race starter Gerald Alterman is just two years away from 45 years of officiating, with experience at the Olympics, Paralympics, Diamond League and Anniversary Games and is also an ever-present at youth and junior events, including county schools championships.

The year was though tinged with sadness following the passing of Brian Smouha.

A distinguished international sprinter who represented Great Britain, his sporting genes continue through his nephew, James Espir, who won his GB international vest while at SBH and has held the Maccabiah 1,500m and 5,000m records since 1981.

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