Peter Balderstone: still making a splash

WINNER: Peter Balderstone has enjoyed success at the track and in the swimming pool, competing in the World Masters Games. Picture: Rob Gunstone
WINNER: Peter Balderstone has enjoyed success at the track and in the swimming pool, competing in the World Masters Games. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Peter, I note that you rate the racing deeds of Brungle Cry as your sporting highlight. Did Brungle Cry win many races?

He won seven races, with his main two victories in the Grand National Hurdle and the Galleywood Hurdle.

The Grand National Hurdle victory was special as my late wife Ellen, who was very sick at the time, got the chance to see the win on television.

The Galleywood victory was special because it was at Warrnambool, so many of my family and friends were there to capture the moment.

I don't think people understand how special it is to breed and then race a horse which wins a race anywhere, let alone a Grand National Hurdle or a Galleywood.

I've bred more than 20 horses and Brungle Cry stands out as the best.

Brungle Cry’s dam had five foals and due to various reasons the other progeny never raced.

Do you still race horses now?

Yes. I've got a couple of horses in work with Hamilton trainer Allan Clark.

I've got nothing of note, but owners always live in hope that they have a good horse.

I love watching the horses race, especially in the country.

It's just a lot easier to get to the races in the country than to have them race in the city.

But on the other hand, if they race in the city they are usually handy types of horses.

Caulfield trainer Robert Smerdon trained Brungle Cry for me. He's a very, very good trainer.

With your love of horses and the 2017 Warrnambool Carnival just finished a fortnight ago, I take it you were among the big crowd at the track?

No, I was not at the racetrack. I was at another sort of track.

I was one of 28,000 competitors from all over the world competing in the World Masters Games in Auckland.

Competitors came from 106 countries and competed in 31 sports.

It's the second World Masters Games that I have competed in, as I took part in the games in Sydney four years ago.

How did you perform in Auckland?

I came fourth in the 50-metre freestyle in swimming for the age group from 80 years old to 84.

I was also successful in two relay swim sides in the mens 4 x 50-metre freestyle and the mens 4 x 50-metre medley.

You would have had to train a lot to compete at that level?

Yes. There's a lot of training involved. I was training six days a week.

I was swimming laps in the pools at Hamilton, Warrnambool and Port Fairy for a few years to prepare myself for the games.

It would have been about 20 years ago that I had open heart surgery and I decided I had to keep fit if I was going to get much older.

I had a triple bypass. I was determined not to have another heart turn, so I started doing a lot of walking to improve my fitness and working out in the gym.

I always loved swimming from a young age, so it was obvious when the chance came up to compete at the games that swimming was the event which I was going to focus on.

I must admit I'm lucky and blessed to be in such good health now.

Are you going to compete at the next World Masters Games?

They’re in Japan in four years time. I’ll wait and see how my health is before planning for those games.

I’ll never forget the advice I got from a 95-year-old man who competed in the swimming events at 2013 World Masters Games in Sydney.

What advice did he pass on?

He held lots of records at the games.

He told me it was easier to break the records as you get older because the competiton drops off. They were very wise words.

Peter, you mentioned that you really loved swimming from a young age. Can you tell how that love started?

When I went to school I liked various sports including swimming, water polo, rugby and athletics.

I joined the Melbourne Swimming Club at a young age. I would compete every week in the 50 and 100-metre freestyle. I would train before and after school.

I held the Victorian schoolboy record for both swims for quite a few years.

I also competed for the Melbourne Swimming Club in water polo.

I was selected in the Australian squad for water polo, but due to wanting to be a farmer my sporting career never went any further.

What about your rugby career. Did that go to any big levels?

I represented Victoria in the school boys team in rugby.

The main reason why I took up rugby was because I could not kick a footy, so I thought it was stupid to chase in a career in the old VFL-AFL.

I played against New South Wales in various schoolboy rugby games before wanting to be a farmer.

You must have had a strong urge to be a farmer?

Yes, I did. I think the urge came about because several of my uncles had farms up around the Riverina in New South Wales and I would visit them when I was growing up.

I got my first farm at Hexham more than 40 years ago before buying land on the Wannon River, 17km out of Hamilton, more than 30 years ago.

The property has beef and prime lambs.

My son runs the property, which is called Brung Brungle at The Wannon.

I think it's wonderful that the property has stayed in the family.

I often head up there from my place in Port Fairy to have a look around to see everything is ticking over all right.