AFTER 11 years taking home silver, 88-year-old Bill Despard finally got his hands on gold at the European Masters Weightlifting Championship.

The weightlifting Kilwinning pensioner won the crown in Waterford in Ireland over the weekend, meaning he can take the second place trophy down from his mantlepiece.

And making the occasion even more special for Bill, his son Gavin, 59, was also competing at the event - though in a different age bracket.

It was Gavin's first time at the championship, after taking time away from the sport, though the Kilwinning man also returned home with a medal - a third placed bronze.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Bill was competing for the 12th time - and as previously mentioned had been runner up on each of his last 11 efforts.

Before heading out, Bill was confident that "this is the one", though feared the worst as he had to battle through a non-Covid illness to triumph.

And it was a welcome win in another sense too, with the Kilwinning man stating he'd have been "made to walk home" had he not won this time out.

Winning gold is the latest chapter in what has been an extraordinary career in weightlifting for Bill.

The widower, who took up the sport aged 15, had his right breast removed when he was 16 due to cancer, before getting back to competing at 18.

In 2021 he had to have his hip replaced - but he hasn't let that hold him back.

Bill also become the oldest Scottish weightlifter to compete in the competition when he lifted over the weekend.

Though he wasn't quite the oldest there - with one competitor eight months his senior - however it was Bill who took the title that mattered most.

A member of the Kilwinning Olympic Weightlifting Club - which he has run for over 20 years - Bill isn't going to stop anytime soon either.

He said he will continue to compete because "what else would I do in Kilwinning?"

And he has his eyes set on another gold which has alluded him thus far - with the World Championships due to take place in August, though winning medals and keeping himself fit are not his only inspirations.

He said: “I love doing it, I love the sport. It’s been good to me physically, it’s been great to me. It’s my life, it’s everything I know in life.

“I just feel that if I can get kids off the streets and teach them an Olympic sport, and help them get out of difficulties, that would be great."

And the great-grandfather plans to open up the Kilwinning Olympic Weightlifting Club to ensure he can do just that - and inspire the next generation.

The club is now looking to take on new members, both boys and girls, aging from 12 and up.

Anyone interested in joining can come along to the club at West Coast Strength and Condition in Longford Avenue from 4.30pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Alternatively, call Bill on 07414 493312.