Hundreds of athletes have arrived in Saint John from all over North, South and Central America for the World Masters Athletics event – the first major international event to be hosted in the city’s newly refurbished Canada Games Stadium.

The event is proof that athletes are never too old to compete in sports at a high level – just ask Ray Wardle.

Wardle, a 79-year-old sprinter from Ottawa, says he is still driven by his competitive nature.

“When you get your first medal, a bronze usually, then I said ‘I’d like some more of that, but I’d like a better colour,’” he joked while stretching before Wednesday’s 100 and 200-metre races.

The World Masters marks the first international track event to be held in Saint John in two decades.

“These athletes are quite often people who did track and field in their youth and they continue to do it for the same reasons because Canadians play recreational hockey, or old-timer hockey,” says meet director Bill MacMackin. “They do it because it’s their sport.”

Jovette Jolicouer of Calgary competed in the pentathlon today.

“If you’re competing, it doesn’t have to be track and field,” says the 52-year-old. “It can be volleyball or cycling. If you do competition, it gives you incentive to train and the health benefits are amazing.”

Masters events tend to slide under the radar, especially in years when the Olympics grab most of the spotlight, but this year’s event has brought more than 500 people from 17 different countries to Saint John.

At age 39, Dan Percival is one of the younger athletes competing in the event. He says he is learning from some of his older competitors.

“You always put a stigma or stereotype on older people that they don’t know what’s going on,” says Percival. “Some of these people are showing me stuff, even how to use my email in a different way.”

“At the Masters, you move into new age groups every five years,” says Wardle. “Next year I move into the 80 category, so I’ll be the young lad. It may sound strange being the young lad at 80, but that’s the way it works.”

With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron