Monday, September 21, 2015

The 100-year-old sprinter

“Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.” — Ausonius, 4th century Roman poet and teacher of rhetoric

FOR THOSE of us who believe ourselves to be beyond the age of accomplishment, most certainly athletic accomplishment, consider this story from The New York Times!

100 Years Old. 5 World Records.

By Karen Crouse
September. 21, 2015

SAN DIEGO — Don Pellmann had been at the San Diego Mesa College track for less than an hour Sunday morning and had already moved his lawn chair twice to remain in the shade, which was receding fast. By the time Pellmann set his fifth age-group world record, in the early afternoon, the temperature on the track was creeping toward 100, which also happens to be the birthday Pellmann recently celebrated.

Pellmann, the most senior athlete in the San Diego Senior Olympics, became the first centenarian to break 27 seconds in the 100-meter dash and the first to clear an official height in the high jump. He also broke records for men in the 100-and-over age group in the shot-put and the discus and set a record in the long jump.

Wearing baggy shorts and a faded red T-shirt with “Donald Pellmann Established 1915 Milwaukee, WI” written across the front, he opened his program by trying to become the oldest man, by roughly nine years, to record a height in the pole vault. He dislodged the bar three times at 3 feet 1 ¾ inches, which gnawed at him the rest of the day.

“I thought I was in better shape,” he said.

The meet volunteers, composed of students from San Diego State’s nursing program and Mesa College’s track team, were awed by Pellmann’s fitness level. They sought him out between his events to express their admiration.

“He’s very, very steady on his feet, and his posture’s very erect,” Sarah Provencher, one of the nursing students, said. “He doesn’t have as much bone and muscle degeneration as others in his age group. You can see he has really maintained his muscles.”

Samantha Foster, 17, a freshman pole-vaulter on the Mesa track team, planted herself so close to the pit that she could hear Pellmann muttering to himself after each of his three vaults. “I love when he says he needs more practice,” she said. “It’s cool to watch him being able to still do this at 100.”

His fellow competitors also sought him out for selfies, including 57-year-old Robert Silva, who said, “You see people that are 100 run, but to see someone that age pole-vault or long jump, that’s another galaxy.”

Pellmann said he had been a gymnast and a high jumper in his youth. The Depression cut short his athletic career at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, then known as La Crosse State Teachers College. Pellmann said he quit the track team to get a job. After raising three children with his wife, Marge, who is in her early 90s, Pellmann retired from his job with a General Electric subsidiary in 1970.

At the urging of one of his children, he entered a masters track meet. He did so well that he kept going. “I’ve been in 127 meets since,” Pellmann said.

Before Sunday, two years had passed since Pellmann’s last competition in the pole vault. He used to practice by taking a bamboo stick and jumping into the sandbox at a children’s park, he said, but those days are long gone.

“The only time I can practice is at the meets,” said Pellmann, who lives with his wife, who is ailing, in an assisted living home in Santa Clara, Calif.

He approached the vaulting pit with trepidation, running with a pole he had borrowed from Nadine O’Connor, 73, who is also a record-setting masters athlete. O’Connor and her partner, Bud Held, a 1952 Olympian in the javelin, live outside San Diego and hosted Pellmann, whom they got to know on the seniors track circuit.

Held acted as Pellmann’s coach. In the pole vault, Held urged him to run faster on his approach and consoled him each time he knocked down the bar.

Click here to read the the whole article.

1 comment:

  1. As an older person who just began working out a few years ago, I admire him greatly. He's doing the right thing, by remaining active, he'll enjoy life longer. Pole jumping? Wow. I am in awe - really. It's not just a word; but when I read that, I gasped! However, his bones will remain stronger because of it, so perhaps he's in less danger than I thought. Just wow.