Peter Crombie retires at 74 — Aussie legend among top masters sprinters of all time

Peter Crombie (5) writes about this photo taken at 2010 Sacramento nationals, where he defeated Steve Robbins (3) and Don Neidig (4) in the M65 200: "The pleasing part for me was that Don Neidig was the world indoor record holder for both the 60 and 200 at that time and Steve Robbins was the world record holder for the outdoor 100 and 200."

Peter Crombie, one of the greatest masters champions in history, has retired at age 74. This is the end of a sprinter era. Peter has been a frequent guest entrant at USATF nationals and is a buddy to many Yanks. When I heard from a friend about Peter’s pullout, I was skeptical. Peter is still in his prime! How could this be? So I wrote him.

Here’s what I learned:

MASTERSTRACK.BLOG: Can you share your status, and reasons for retiring?

PETER CROMBIE: Injuries have plagued my athletics career for some 20 years now with knees being the main issue with three major knee operations in recent years. Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and extensive bone bruising have been the main culprits in recent times and even after extensive offtrack work and with Synvisc and PRP, I have exhausted all of my treatment options. In recent years I have had to vary my training more to include water running, gym, SIT bike and elliptical workouts to compensate for the lack of track work, but that type of activity no longer suffices.

What have been your most satisfying moments?

I have loved all of my athletics career with many memorable moments which include racing, coaching and administrative matters where I have been part of the implementation of many changes within our sport.

Peter Crombie (lane 3) outlegs Roger Pierce (4) and Larry Barnum (5) in the M65 final at 2011 Sacramento worlds.

Peter Crombie (lane 3) outlegs Roger Pierce (4) and Larry Barnum (5) in the M65 final at 2011 Sacramento worlds.

I really enjoy the coaching of all athletes of all levels, but one who springs to mind is Marge Allison, who I have worked with for over 35 years and who has emerged as Australia’s greatest ever female track athlete.

As for myself, there are many incredible moments and far too many to detail. But overall I really enjoyed my first world meet back in Melbourne in 1987 where I won three gold medals and made two other finals.

In the early phase of my career, I decided to race all 3 sprints, 100, 200 and 400m and not attempt to specialise, and that together with my long career has given me the opportunity to win 65 world sprint medals, more than other male sprint athlete ever. I just love relays and the camaraderie of the team and have enjoyed the shared success of medalling 24 times in world titles relay events.

Some career highlights include;

  • WMA World Male Athlete of the Year in 2010
  • Receiving an Order Of Australia (OAM) for services athletics
  • Inducted into the Australian Masters’ Hall of Fame in 2013
  • Breaking an Australian record in each individual sprint event in every world indoor meet in which I have competed.
  • Winning nine world titles within six months was really satisfying as my injuries started to “take over” — Perth 2016 M70 100, 200, 400, 4×100 and 4×400 and Daegu 2017 M70 60, 200, 400 and 4×200.

How long was your track career and masters career?

I have been competing in athletics for some 60 consecutive years now with the last 40 years as a master.

Peter Crombie has won more world medals than anyone in masters history, according to one account.

Peter Crombie has won more world medals than anyone in masters history, according to one account.

Many would not realise that in my early years I was an all-rounder, usually competing in some eight events each Saturday, including events like walks, throws, jumps, sprints and middle distance. I won state and national titles in a diversity of events like 110 and 400 hurdles, long jump, javelin, shot put, sprints and the pentathlon. At my first world titles, my main event was considered to be the pentathlon — but injuries dictated that I could only sprint at the meet and the rest is history.

Any parting thoughts on how masters athletics can be improved, grow?

For masters athletics to expand, we must expand the base numbers of athletes and ensure that participating is fun and not appear elitist to the masses, who could never expect to compete [for] world titles.

There are many other meets like masters games, Seniors Games, cross country and road championships as well as fun runs and park runs — all of which seem to have a much broader base of participants than “traditional” track meets who do not seem to transition to our part of the sport. These athletes can be targeted in many ways with social media and direct contact as they have already determined that they are interested in our sport.

Have more “fun” events like community hill runs, events in the public domain like shopping centres, masters events and relays at open championships, handicap races and during large professional events like baseball or football. Skins races for sprints and middle distance are all additional “extra” style events which are loved by all and enhance the spectator experience.

Have 60-meter events included in all regular outdoor track championships.

Include a “Champion of Champions” sprint where the best 10 age-graded 100-meter athletes for male and female each compete in a handicap race to determine the “sprinter of the meet” at each national meet. Here in Australia, this event is watched by everyone in complete silence as all are keenly interested in the outcome. The same situation can apply to throws as well, which is quite a dynamic event.

Mixed relays are gaining prominence at open level; introduce them to masters meets.

There are plenty more but this is good for starters.

Me again: I’ve seen many superstars hang up their spikes, and it’s a sign of how strenuous and demanding this sport again. It should give all of us — even submediocres like me — reason to be grateful we can still lace ’em up.

Please join me in wishing Peter all the best in his competition retirement. But we’ll continue to hear from him as a coach, administrator and wonderful friend.

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at TrackCEO@aol.com or kens@timesofandiego.com. Story tips always welcome!

13 Comments on "Peter Crombie retires at 74 — Aussie legend among top masters sprinters of all time"

  1. Congratulations on a brilliant athletics career Peter.

    • Thanks Dave, it has been a pleasure working with you for the last 20 years and for you to develop into a world medal winning sprint athlete.

  2. Such long careers are very interesting for, for example, judging age gradings. Do you have everything documented Peter? A pity that injuries took over…

    • Thanks Weia, yes, I have kept all of my results of many many races. I competed in many US Titles each year particularly prior to the introduction of the World Indoor meets. The age gradings were pretty consistent between 92% and 97% right through.Yes, injuries are a hazard, But with plenty of off track work I was able to extend my tenure.

      • When you have the energy I am interested in best performances for every age… I am in the commitee that is busy with an update of the age gradings. Weia at xmsnet dot nl

  3. Although I have never met Peter Crombie, I have followed his storied success in Masters sprinting for many years. The few interviews that I read where fascinating…..and I tried to incorporate any training tips into my own workouts. A true giant of our sport. Good luck with your next endeavor. I am sure that you will achieve equal success.

  4. How are you able to comment on a comment?? When you have the energy I am interested in best performances for every age… I am in the commitee that is busy with an update of the age gradings. Weia at xmsnet dot nl

  5. Congratulations Peter. It has been my very great pleasure to be part of your training squad for so many years. Your input as a coach and a friend has been invaluable. Well done and thanks.

  6. I only had the opportunity to run with Peter in the latter part of his long career but each time it was an honor and a cause for fear. I’ll miss racing with him.

  7. Thanks John, it has been a real pleasure coaching and running with you over many, many years. it is always sad not to be in constant touch with such longstanding friends.

  8. Great to hear from you Kenton. I enjoyed our infrequent races. It was a great pleasure to get such stiff competition from someone who started in our sport late, as you have done. it normally takes many years to get up to speed, but clearly you are an exception.I wish you a long career of testing boundaries.

  9. Peter, your comments on ways to make masters track more visible and to attract more people are excellent.

  10. Thanks Michael, I have always had a passion for our sport as a competitor, administrator, manager and coach and have enjoyed them all.

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