At 79, Pitcairn becomes oldest athlete to debut at games
GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Robert Pitcairn has flown in the military and foiled a potential hijacker on a commercial flight. So targeting a record as the oldest competitor to debut at the Commonwealth Games hasn’t been too daunting.
The 79-year-old Canadian made his debut Monday in the Queen’s Prize Pairs Finals in the full bore shooting competition. He and teammate Nicole Rossignol were placed ninth after the first day of the final.
At 79 years and nine months old, he broke the record previously held by England’s Doreen Flanders, who took part in lawn bowls at Glasgow in 2014 a few weeks after her 79th birthday.
“I’m very grateful to be here,” said Pitcairn, who retired as a pilot in 1988 following a career that started when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force three decades earlier. “This is my last big pinnacle to solve in my shooting career and I’m going to solve that riddle this week.”
He’s unlikely to get too flustered by competition, having a history of being cool-headed.
Pitcairn’s story has generated plenty of attention on the Gold Coast, particularly a flight in 1974.
As he recounts it, a passenger on a flight between Winnipeg and Edmonton attacked an air hostess with a knife and demanded he be flown to Cyprus.
“Ultimately, I talked him in to going to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and by the time we landed he’d cooled down quite a bit and I was able to talk him out of the hijacking.”
He prefers to turn attention to the games, where his aim is to win a medal.
“My hopes in the event are pretty simple — podium, that’s it,” he said. “I’m going home and I’m going to walk off the podium a very happy man.”
Regardless of results, he’ll leave a mark on the games for the age of his debut. He only discovered the detail when his son was researching online and told him, “Hey Dad you’re going to be the oldest.”
“But it doesn’t matter, I’m proud of it for the sense I’d like to say that older people listening in on this you too can have opportunities to do this if you put your mind to it,” Pitcairn said. “Train for it and train your body to be good, you’ll have success.”