As the autumn sun shines down on the Kadina race track, crowds gather for the main event of the 2024 SA Masters Games: the 100-metre sprint for competitors aged 90 to 94.

The starting gun fires and one particular runner takes off with gusto, passing competitors by in clothing not normally seen at an athletics carnival.

Percy Voigt says his involvement in the SA Masters Games has given him a new lease on life.(Supplied: Bronwyn Hamilton)

With his sage green polo tucked neatly into his brown cotton trousers and a grin on his face stretching ear to ear, 94-year-old Percy Voigt stands out from the crowd for more reasons than one.

As the finish line draws closer, there is a twinkle in Mr Voigt’s eye as he realises another gold medal will soon be added to his tally — something he didn’t think was possible two years ago.

Slow and steady wins the race

Besides the occasional hit of tennis on weekends, Mr Voigt was never one to enjoy exercise — in fact, his athletic career only started in his 90s.

Percy Voigt (centre) was a smoker and drinker before getting into fitness at the age of 92.(Supplied: Bronwyn Hamilton)

Aged 92 and suffering from stage three emphysema and osteoarthritis, Mr Voigt was watching TV when an advertisement for the SA Masters Games came on.

The cheeky, spirited senior leant over to his family and joked, “Ah I could do that. I could run”.

“I was only kidding, I wasn’t fair dinkum. But they said, ‘All right, big mouth, come and have a try, and let’s see what you can do’,” he said.

Before he knew it, Mr Voigt was tying up his shoelaces and heading down to Loxton Oval to try his luck at a 100m sprint.

“It didn’t go too well. I couldn’t even run the 100m at first,” he said.

“I was out of breath, gasping for air and my jolly joints and muscles were screaming in agony.”

Although breathing can limit his abilities, Mr Voigt says his pain has completely disappeared.(Supplied: Bronwyn Hamilton)

But with a little determination and a point to prove, Mr Voigt decided to give up smoking, focus on his health and show his family he could do anything he put his mind to. 

A few months later, he competed in his first SA Masters Games at Bordertown High School, competing in the 60m and 100m runs.

Percy Voigt also got into shot-put after an event organiser encouraged him to give it a go.(Supplied: Ros and Roger Lowe)

“That went all right — I won gold for each one so that was two medals in the first year,” he said.

By 2023, Mr Voigt had competed at the Australian Masters Games in five events, including the 1,500m walk, shot-put, discuss, javelin and the 100m sprint.

“The Australian Masters Games was encouraging because I started to break my personal best times … and I thought to myself, ‘Hey this is pretty good’,” he said.

A new lease on life 

Since first competing, Mr Voigt has found a love for fitness and now has a vigorous exercise routine with his coach and son-in-law Peter Hamilton.

The pair now train together two days a week at Loxton Oval and in a hydrotherapy pool.

Peter Hamilton (who is also a GP) says coaching Mr Voigt has been a great journey for the both of them.(Supplied: Bronwyn Hamilton)

In Mr Voigt’s downtime, he walks three times a week, rides his three-wheel bicycle, and uses Loxton’s public outdoor gym equipment. 

“Gradually over the years I have become better and better … all the pains have disappeared and the muscles and joints are working well again now,” he said.

“It’s like being born again, nice and rejuvenated … off we go!”

Percy Voigt’s family is by his side at every competition.(Supplied: Bronwyn Hamilton)

Dr Hamilton said Mr Voigt’s determination had not only inspired his family, but the whole Loxton community.

“Perce will tell you himself that in his 50s and 60s he was not nearly as fit as he is now,” Dr Hamilton said. 

“I think that’s a great example to us all, that being healthy and happy … is a lot about your attitude.

“It’s about how you look after yourself, having a purpose and having a go … and he’s been a great example of that.”

Percy Voigt has been recognised as the oldest competitor at the SA Masters Games.(Supplied: Bronwyn Hamilton)

Not ready to throw in the towel just yet

With 19 medals now under his belt, Mr Voigt said he was looking forward to his next shot at winning gold. 

“I think I’ll give it another try,” he said. 

“I’ll be in the 95 to 99-year-old age group and compete against all the others … if there are any!”

As for his secret to a long, happy and healthy life, Mr Voigt said optimism was key.

“I think it’s mainly having a good positive attitude,” he said.

“The older I grow, the faster I go!”

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