Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Sylvester Stein (January 2016)


95 Not Out!

Sylvester Stein, who was 95 on Christmas Day, died on the 29th of December 2015. He joined Highgate Harriers, as a 53 year old sprinter and, later achieved several times Highgate Harriers Masters Awards.
He met his future and, devoted wife, Sarah Cawkwell, an artist, who ran for Highgate. One of his greatest friends was Highgate Harrier’s, Ex-athlete and still an official, Bob Slowe.
      Sylvester Stein, was born in South Africa in 1920 and was amazingly, still sprinting to M80 titles, as a British Master & Veterans AC Champion.
Back in 1978, as a 57 year old, Sylvester gained 2 European Veteran Championship gold medals in Italy. In 1981 he won an M60, 200m gold medal in the World Masters Championships in New Zealand.
Since then, he has been a journalist, writer of fiction and non-fiction books, an actor, playwright and publisher.

He published Jogging Magazine, which later became Running. He published the British Masters paper, called Veterans Athletics. No 1, in 1980, which was later titled Masters Athletics, with the 100th issue coming out in 2012.
A vital part of Sylvester’s life was campaigning, against apartheid in South Africa. He was a pioneer for Inter-Racial sport in South Africa and was Editor of the DRUM Magazine in the 1950’s, which must have given him lots of ideas for his successful play he wrote called ‘Mr Drum’ that was put on at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith.
However, there was a large gap in his athletics career and, I asked him about that, back in April of 1979 and he remarked then
“For years I had been looking for competition; as I used to say to a colleague. ‘Why is there not some sport for the Over 50’s Olympics for the over 50’s?” One day in 1972 I was reading a magazine and saw there was about to be an International Veterans Competition at Crystal Palace for the Over 40’s and 50’s. I said “Here it is at last” and I managed by enormous efforts to be admitted to that meeting, having for a week beforehand trained myself out of the race,-stiff quadriceps and hamstrings gone. But I managed to just qualify for the final of the 100m, and that kept me interested in the future possibilities.”
He added ‘I was a reasonable schoolboy sprinter but after that, at Capetown University, I had no chance at all because I was 15 then and, at that stage competing with men of 20 and 21, which was really a bit too hard.
The War came and I was in the Royal navy, and so that was it for my athletics career. When the war was over I was building up a family (With his first wife), career and so on for those ten years. I don’t suppose I even kept fit when my children were growing up and therefore active in swimming and back-yard football. I took up volleyball at one time, and then I gradually came back into running.”
It would be hard not to realise that Slyvester Stein had a long and varied life as, he contributed so much in the many years he had.

Alastair Aitken

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