Bill hammers home his views

21st September 2007 at 01:00
a former head of biology at Musselburgh Grammar has won an award from Edinburgh City Council for challenging stereotypes of older people.

Hammer thrower Bill Gentle-man, 66, who has won several athletics medals since he retired in 1997, still coaches schoolchildren on a voluntary basis. He also sings with amateur operatic societies and believes in keeping very active, irrespective of age. The city council felt his zest for life and positive attitude made him an ideal role model for older people.

"Life doesn't stop at retirement," he says. "Endorphins released make you feel good. It's about healthy mind, healthy body. If you keep active, there's lots of evidence that it aids your digestion, mental alertness, breathing and muscular tone."

During his career, Mr Gentle-man coached pupils in athletics, hockey and basketball. At Mussel-burgh, he coached middle distance runner Yvonne Murray from 1979-87. "I had 40 or 50 people out every lunchtime," he says.

"I played hockey for Scotland over-35s 11 internationals, so the coaching helped keep me fit. I'm also a qualified summer mountain leader and took folk hillwalking. My coaching expertise was in running. I was a sprinter-jumper at university. When I retired, I went to college to do sports therapy so I could look after my athletes better. I coach weight training at Meadow-bank Sports Centre."

Mr Gentleman (pictured) runs a weekly primary after-school athletics club for the James Young cluster in Livingston in West Lothian. He coaches children at Linlithgow Academy, running fitness training in the winter, cross-country in the spring and throwing in the summer.

The retired teacher has a hefty collection of medals spanning several decades, from his first won at school and university, to gold, silver and bronzes gained at Scottish National Championships, British Masters events and Pan American Masters. While his main event is the hammer, he also competes in "throws" pentathlons involving hammer, heavy hammer, shot-put, discus and javelin.

He and his wife go hillwalking regularly. "We had a fortnight in the Canadian Rockies in March and in November we're off to Patagonia for three weeks. We've done lots of walking in the Pyrenees, Rockies, Yosemite, Arizona, Nevada, and we backpacked the Grand Canyon."

Working with young people, he says, "keeps your mind active and keeps you young".

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