Going for Gold

A natural athlete in every sense of the phrase, Victorian resident Val Worrell is still winning national titles well into her retirement. Meet our resident hammer throw champion.

There’s nothing quite like the rush that comes with competing in your favourite sport; whether you’re chasing that gold medal or vying for a title. For Val Worrell, a Waterford Park resident from Victoria, competitive sport is something she still enjoys today, at 83 years old. 

Val is a world-class hammer throw champion, and her collection of gold medals is enough to make even the most well-known Olympic athlete jealous. 

Sport has been a very important part of Val’s life since her 20’s. Starting out as a competitive runner, it was only when the discus thrower in her athletics club was rendered out of action for a competition that Val thrust her hand up and volunteered to step in. 

Knowing nothing about discus and with very little training, she surprised everyone with her prowess and started breaking national records left, right and centre. 

She qualified for the Melbourne Olympics squad in 1956, however, life had other plans for Val. She fell pregnant with her first child while training for the Olympics.

“I gave up athletics to raise my family. The windows of opportunity in both athletics and life are small, and we should grab them when we can. I’m glad I did that with my family”, she reflected.

With growing children, Val decided to become a gym instructor and continued this until her retirement from working life in 2009. It was only when Val was in her 50’s that she made her return to throwing — this time, with a hammer.

“My husband, Tom, was an elite runner. When he had an accident and broke his hip, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to get back to athletics and keep him interested too, bringing him on board as my coach,” she said.

Tom leapt at the challenge and began studying hammer throwing techniques and nationally recognised coaches. Before long, it became obvious Val was a natural and she started winning titles all over the country. 

“Three days a week you’ll find me on the athletics field, throwing my hammer. On the other days, I’m in the gym. I do step-ups carrying 16 kilos, side bends with 10 kilos on each side and pull-downs for my lat muscles,” she said.

Now, Val has several world gold medals to her name, with an overflowing medal cabinet packed with about 400 medals (at Val’s best estimate). 

“I keep trying to do better and when I throw well, I think, 'Yeah, you’ve still got it,” Val said. 

She’s competed in South Africa, America, Europe, Tahiti and New Zealand, all with the enthusiastic support and encouragement of her fellow Waterford Park residents.