Good friends and fierce adversaries Ken Dickson and Gary Free post-competition in Townsville.
Good friends and fierce adversaries Ken Dickson and Gary Free post-competition in Townsville.

Veterans on track for some rivalry

DECATHLETE veterans Gary Free and Ken Dickson have never seen eye to eye, on the track of course.

So when Gary, a local Emerald athletics competitor beat good mate and fierce rival Ken to claim his first decathlon win at the Australian Masters Combined Events Championships, victory could not come sweet enough.

Competition between the pair has been thick and fast for many years and when their paths crossed again in decathlon’s 45-50 age division in Townsville, the stage was set for a fitting finale.

“They’ve always had a healthy rivalry – there’s never much love lost,” a close confidant of the Free family said.

But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the experienced Emerald competitor who was struck down by serious injury in his early 20s.

After receiving the worst news possible from doctors that he would never run again, Free dispelled all predictions to not only regain his feet but win a national title. While Gary wasn’t exactly a big fan of the 1500m slog in the event’s closing stages, the family source said pole-vault would definitely rank the more desired disciplines, often equalling the same dizzying heights of competitors many years his junior.

“He just loves doing it,” the source said. “He gets up higher than some of the younger blokes.”

He’s also a pretty mean hurdler, taking out the 400m event on a spur of the moment decision to compete.

While decathlon may not hold all the glamour of its 100m sibling, it’s certainly not a discipline for the faint of heart, incorporating no less than 10 track and field disciplines. Usually run over two days, placing’s are based on a points accumulation from all events.

Gary was in good company on the winner’s stage with fellow Emerald decathlon competitor Neil Dale also nailing first place in the men’s 50 years age division. The warhorse also reportedly did the whole 10 events carrying an injury sustained early in the competition.


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