Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Take a page out of Olga's Book...

Yesterday I met an athlete quite unlike any other I have met before. Her sport is track and field and she has a collection of approximately 432 medals of which 401 are gold. Impressive right? She is also the holder of numerous World, Canadian and BC records in multiple track and field events. Her name is Olga Kotelko and she is 89! That's not a typo...

                     Olga's wind-up

Most of that info was gleaned from a quick internet search because when I met Olga she was far too humble to mention any of her significant accomplishments. She was training on the field behind my son's elementary school. A little elderly woman tossing 5 discus (disci?) and a javelin - retrieve, throw again; retrieve, throw again.... No coach, no teammates, no "Senior's Learn to Throw the Javelin" group. Just Olga and her training. I was blown away! At first glance I thought the javelin was some sort of Tai Chi stick or a blind person's cane - then she hurled it about 15 metres!

Well, that was the clincher - I couldn't resist chatting with her... She took up these sports 11 years ago at the age of 77! That's about 65 years after most people first encounter the javelin in Junior High and about 63 years after most people last set eyes on a javelin or a discus. And that's if they actually did P.E. in school and didn't "forget" their gym strip. Wow! Can you imagine taking up the Javelin, Discus, Shot Put, and Hammer Throw (yes, Hammer Throw...) as a 77 year old! Me neither. Olga regularly competes in all of them.

               Javelin Lesson for Mattias and I

As I rushed around the building to pick up Mattias from his class I decided that I would introduce him to Olga. I was hoping he'd soak up a bit of the lifespirit that Olga had even though she is 83 years older than him...(wow).

She kindly indulged me by getting the javelin out of the car to demonstrate a couple of textbook throws for Mattias. He was very impressed and so was I. I explained to Mattias that Olga was training, so that when she competes (at the BC Master's Track and Field Championships) she would be able to throw the javelin further than anyone else. She corrected me with, "No, just to try to throw it further than last year." Very 'zen-warrior' I thought. So I asked her how far that was, and instantly she told me, "18.56 in the Javelin" - a number that she was clearly intimately familiar with.

                       This is not lawn bowling

Meeting Olga today left a big impression on me. Sports have the power to keep us young. Challenging ourselves should be a lifelong thing - not just a "right now" thing, or a "maybe later" thing. Hopefully Mattias will have subconsciously taken this info to heart. Hopefully I did too...

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1 comment:

worldgirl said...

What a well-written and upbeat post, Meyrick (I get so tired of bloggers who can't even spell). At 55 I often feel frustrated by health problems and ever-present ageism in Western societies, but this is inspiring. Thanks.