National titles remembered 65 years on

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GRACEFUL STYLE: Peter Cates in title winning action during the 1961 New Zealand Athletics Association Championships hurdles events in Hamilton. Peter is captured in action (at left) in the 220 yards race, and (at right) the 440 yards. PHOTOS SUPPLIED
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Sixty five years ago Peter Cates became a New Zealand hurdles champion.

It was the late 1950s, and then, in his early 20s, the future business owner, was working for Dalgety’s.

Tall and fit, Peter won his first 220 yards hurdles championship on the Recreation Ground at Lower Hutt in 1958.

It was one of four national titles the now 89-year-old got during his athletics reign; the first in 1958, the 440 yards in 1959 at Palmerston North, and both distances at Hamilton in 1961.

He also won 16 provincial titles; eight over the 440 yard hurdles, seven over 220 yard hurdles and one junior high jump title where he jumped the equivalent of 162.56 cm.

A member of the Ashburton Athletics Club, and a former Ashburton Technical High School champion, Peter regularly competed at Canterbury Athletics at Rugby Park in Christchurch.

His late wife Jocelyn used to timekeep for him.

WINNING STYLE: Peter Cates in action during the men’s hurdles national title 220 yards event at Hamilton in 1961.

Months of training and regular lunch time runs were about to come to fruition as he took the line at the New Zealand Athletics Association championship.

He ran it in a time of 24.45seconds. His best time ever.

Impressive for an athlete who was largely self-made but described in reports of the day as having a ‘‘wonderful competitive temperament and ability to rise to the occasion’’.

Peter was encouraged into hurdles by teacher, and former national javelin champion, Arthur Grayburn.

Grayburn told Peter his future as a high jumper was limited, but to use his skills in the hurdles.

The newly-crowned national champion did a demonstration run at the Easter Monday Gymkhana at Hinds Domain which turned out to be a highlight for many of the 3000 present.

They got to see his easy running and graceful hurdling style in action, much to the amazement of daughter Nikki, who has been looking over the athletic history of her father.

She, and sister Joanne, are incredibly proud of his accolades.

He didn’t talk much about those years, Nikki said.

TITLE HOLDER: Peter Cates, with daughters Nikki (left) and Joanne during this year’s Cates Ltd 50th celebration.

In 1960, Peter held a Canterbury record of 25.0 seconds for the 220 yards hurdles.

He was also captain of Canterbury teams.

He got the ideal conditions at Hamilton in March 1961.

He was among the Canterbury representatives competing at the New Zealand senior men’s and women’s’ national athletic championships.

He won both the 220 yards and 440 yards hurdle events after adapting to the track conditions on the day.

Reports from the time said ‘‘he was the undisputed master on the day’’.

As others crashed hurdles during both events Peter adapted his races to best judged the conditions which included a soft ground and a strong wind.

Peter came away from the meeting as Canterbury’s only individual title winner in the men’s events.

Peter recalls following his latest title win, he travelled to Invercargill to try out for a team to compete in Australia

But was unable to secure a spot on the team.

In later years Peter opened independent grain and seed company, Peter Cates Ltd, which this year celebrated 50 years in operation.

It’s been a success founded from Peter’s determination and good business acumen.

Even after he stepped back from athletics competition to focus on family and work, Peter continued to mentor other athletes at the club.