Sydneysider Richard Lynch has a simple philosophy: never give up. “I do pursue things and I have enormous patience,” he says. “I keep going at things to make them work.” It’s seen him through all kinds of what he calls “disasters” including a divorce, the death of his partner Ron, as well as the near loss of his business and home in the recession of the early 1990s.
Describing himself as “irascible and aggressive at times - but courteous,” Richard discovered ice-skating as a 15 year old when a friend invited him along to a local rink. He was hooked. “Absolutely smitten,” he says.
“I said, I’ve got to do that. I loved the speed and the feeling of flying through the air.”He had a coach for a number of years and got to be a “reasonable skater” before retiring in 1964. It was time to save his pennies for some new goals: marriage, building a house, raising a family and educating his kids. Nine years later though he was back in the rink, competing for a short while, until he retired again – for 35 years.Meanwhile, he had gone through a divorce and was building a career in air conditioning, ultimately setting up his own business with a partner in 1990. The company had a rocky start – it was the beginning of “the recession we had to have,” and he feared the business would collapse and he would lose his house as well – all this while grieving the loss of his partner Ron. But they ran a lean operation and the business recovered; eight years later it was absorbed by a larger company, and the founders eventually bought out.
Now he’s retired, Richard can spend time on his passions. Not only is he writing music, short stories and social commentary, he’s taken up ice-skating again.
“My daughter suggested I might want to take my granddaughter to the rink,” he says. He dusted off his skates, instigated a serious training regime, and has since gone on to win international competitions in Germany and recently in Canada.
His age division is the over 68s, but he often beats competitors in younger divisions.
“I wanted to go to Canada to prove that winning in Germany wasn’t just a one-off, Richard says. “I was told I couldn’t say I was top in the world because in North America there are thousands of people skating. So I went over to Canada and did it, and I won there too. There’s that side of me too that needs to prove myself.
”But it’s not all been plain sailing. He’s asthmatic, has smashed his shoulder in a bad fall, has neurological problems in his right leg, and has undergone shoulder surgery and arthroscopies in both knees. He’s also suffered from crippling bouts of depression over the years, which he’s managed to control to some degree with the help of a very good psychiatrist – yet it still affects him at times.
On the rink, Richard says he’s better than he’s ever been in his life. He trains rigorously, spending four mornings a week on the ice, and twice a day in the lead-up to a competition. “I’m an athlete, I train very hard... There’s great camaraderie in the rink and I get a lot of support from the younger elite skaters.”
Financially he’s comfortable, though at one point during the ‘90s recession he watched in horror as his superannuation balance fell by 25% in a year. But by listening to his superannuation advisor and tweaking his portfolio he’s not only regained but also exceeded his balance over time. After the buyout of his company he really knuckled down, contributing as much as he could.
“The thing is I now do not panic when things go down because with superannuation, in the long term, they will come back. You just have to have faith in the advice that you’re given,” he says.
He’s got ice-skating state championships, club comps, and the nationals coming up before the end of the year. But in the grand scheme of things, skating is peripheral.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to do what I do. I’m realistic and I know that one day I won’t be able to do it. But what I will be able to do is enjoy the life that I’ve got with the family and our house. I’ve had a blessed life. I don’t know why but I have.”
< Learn about the other participants