A veteran athlete who recently taught himself to pole vault is heading Down Under to compete in a decathlon.

Keith Ficken, 69, of Old Shoreham Road in Hove, is off to compete in the World Veteran Games in Brisbane in July.

He has been a keen athlete since he was 16 and a member of Brighton and Hove Athletic Club since the 1940s but has only just diversified into the decathlon.

He runs every day in Hove Park and tries to train or go to the gym three times a week at Withdean Stadium.

He competes in the Sussex Veterans League for over 40s but caught the decathlon bug at the World Veteran Games when they were held at Gateshead two years ago when he came 13th out of 28.

He taught himself how to do the Fosbury flop at the high jump and how to get the positioning of the pole right to vault the bar.

Keith, a retired teacher, trains as often as he can but has to fit it around looking after his wife Pearl, who has advanced Alzheimer's disease.

He has run four London Marathons to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society which provides care for those who suffer with the condition which attacks speech and muscle control.

He said: "I'm going over there to have some fun with all the other silly old fools - it's great, great fun.

"I don't get away much on holiday so I decided to take a holiday doing something I enjoy and this opportunity came up."

His inspiration, in addition to hurdler Kriss Akabusi, is Eric Liddell, the Christian Olympic runner featured in the film Chariots Of Fire.

Keith said: "I read his biography when I was 14 and thought that's the sort of bloke I can endorse. I liked his principles as he put his faith in God and refused to run on Sundays.

"He set the 400m world record instead and it seemed amazing to me how God blessed a man who honoured him. I'm not Eric Liddell but I've had a good time as an athlete."

Keith, who was a county hurdling champion, has to compete in the 65 to 69 group which he resents as he is at the top of the age range before going into the over 70s.

He said: "People who say I shouldn't be doing this at my age don't know what they're missing. I just like being fit and have done all my life. I won't stop until I have to.

"Never would I have competed and done the marathons if Pearl hadn't been stricken.

"I'd probably have led a very boring retired life and I decided to respond in a positive way not a negative way.

"The way I see it, things are either stumbling blocks or stepping stones and I decided to see the way things have turned out as a stepping stone to get me to achieve and do more than I would have done.

"I don't train as hard as I'd like as I have to fit it around finding people to look after Pearl but I'm really looking forward to it and can't wait to go."