83 years old and ‘out to win’


Jean Walker doesn’t go out there to lose. Even at 83 years old, the Richmond grandmother remains competitive. “I go out there to win,” she says. “I’m not out there to give them the ball, I put the ball away from them so they have to run and chase it.”
Jean was the oldest competitor at the Tennis NZ Seniors National Championship held at the Tasman and Hope Tennis Clubs throughout the weekend, and managed to secure a second placing, winning a silver medal with Fay Rangi in the 75 plus doubles. “I think I was,” Jean quietly confirms when queried about being the oldest. “It’s not a matter of being old though. I believe if you want to play a sport then you just focus on it and play. I don’t play as hard as I could but I still play in competitions, and at least three times a week.”
Jean discovered tennis as a 20 year old “lover of sport”. She was living in Invercargill at the time and also played badminton, netball and basketball. “I enjoyed playing tennis because it was outside and it seemed to be the one I enjoyed most.”
Having played competitively for a number of years, Jean decided to stop for about a decade, until the lure of tennis brought her back – this time for 50 years. “I’m 83. “I’m very healthy and live a reasonably good life so I think that’s part of it, I don’t know how else to put it,” she says of her longevity.
Jean missed out on competing at the recent South Island Masters Games in Nelson, so made an extra effort to be fit for the Tennis NZ Seniors National Tournament. “It had never been here before so it was my aim to get right for it.”
Her grandchildren excel at sport, with one in the United States on a football scholarship, but Jean remains the only member of her family actively involved in tennis. “I’m quite privileged to have family that are good at sports and I think they’re quite proud of their grandmother too.”
Jean already has a list of competitions scheduled in for the next month and plans to keep playing “until my legs won’t let me”. “I’ll play until I can’t play. I’m 83 but I just go out there and play to win. I don’t plan on stopping. If some medical thing stops me then I’ll have to size things up but other than that, no.”