I WONDER if the competitive instinct lasts a lifetime or if time and diminishing talent tempers it?

Bolton is a town bristling with sporting talent. Just witness the Spirit of Sport monument at Middlebrook and the fact that 75 more names are now to be added to this celebration of local sport.

Many of the existing 700 names etched into the monument, along with individual photos, reveal the depth of sporting competition in this town, past and present.

You could probably add another couple of hundred, and plenty of sportsmen and women who deserve the spotlight, and scarcely scratch the surface of sport across the borough.

Football, cricket, boxing, badminton, running, rounders, tennis – people from these and many other sports are all recognised here, along with some of the many volunteers who help make local sport possible.

For many people taking part in sport regularly, this is part of their way of life. They may train seriously for their sport or not, be competing at the highest levels or just because they enjoy the game and the social fun.

They may be spectacularly successful or never win a trophy but there is something about the taking part that makes them turn out, week after week, and do their best to win.

It affects the young and the not so young. I’ve played alongside 10 and 12 year-olds in a Darcy Lever Sports and Social Club rounders’ team and been amongst some of the most competitive individuals I’ve ever met. They call me Ange and, confidentially, have decided between themselves that I must be aged “about 80”. I’m hoping their maths’ knowledge doesn’t match up to their batting and fielding skills.

I’ve also played in badminton teams where the total ages add up to over 500, with no decimal point involved. Where the smell of wintergreen ointment lies heavy in the air and where you’re nobody without at least one support bandage. Here, the competitive instinct is far healthier than the bodies involved – we all still want to win.

As time goes by, perhaps we’re more appreciative of the quality of how we’ve played rather than the ultimate score-line. If we play well and lose, it’s still satisfying. Although, of course, not nearly as satisfying as winning.

Last weekend, I watched a variety of ages over 40 playing in the Lancashire Masters Badminton Tournament at Markland Hill Racquets Club. Some people had travelled hundreds of miles to be there, braving chilly weather conditions and motorways and roads still suffering from winter’s grip to take part.

The skills were often dazzling, the entertainment great and the determination as strong as ever. But the main thing was the brilliant spirit of competition that was almost palpable in the sports hall.

Players still loved the opportunity to play against others and score the points. So, that longing to win — or at least do well — probably lasts a lifetime …. or as long as the legs keep going.

Too old for sport? Never.