Forever young

From Australian Geographic, May/June edition:

IT’S BARELY 8AM ON A spring morning in Sydney’s inner south-west. Already the indoor ice rink is alive with lithe figures swooping and twirling in the cool internal air. These world-class figure skating hopefuls have been here for hours, practising their gravity-defying leaps, forcing themselves to their feet after each brutal tumble.

At age 74, with a bald head and white beard, Richard Lynch seems out of place – until he gets on the ice. His coach watches from the sidelines as Richard glides, spins and jumps to the passionate strains of Khachaturian’s Spartacus. At one point he stumbles and falls onto the glistening white ice…and my heart stops. A fall in a typical 74-year-old could mean a hip fracture, hospitalisation, joint replacement or immobility. In some 74-year olds, even a knock against a piece of furniture would be enough.

Richard sits on the ice for a moment, and then pushes himself to his feet and skates on. “I’ve done enough of that in my day,” he says later. “I’ve had injuries and surgery, and so on, and back problems from falling.” Does it worry him? “No, it doesn’t. I really don’t think about it actually,” he says.

Richard could be at home, reading a large-print book, contemplating a slow morning during which the most strenuous activity would be getting up out of an overstuffed chair to put on the kettle. Instead, he’s training at the Canterbury Olympic Ice Rink four mornings each week. He has the Australian national championships coming up. He’s also working towards reclaiming his number-one title at an international figure skating competition in Germany later this year.

And it’s clear the agile Richard is not only equipped with skill, but also a sense of humour: during training he dons his favourite T-shirt – a tight black number with ‘NOT DEAD YET’ emblazoned across the front. Read more in the print or online edition (paywall).

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