Gert Scholtz

4 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Golden Oldies in Sport

Golden Oldies in Sport—-—

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Roger Federer did it again in the recent Australian Open Final. He darted up and down the court sprinting a few kilometres, reacted to oncoming tennis balls in less than 0,3 seconds and held his nerve and concentration for four hours. He came back from injury to win one of the most grueling sporting events at age thirty five. At a stage when many are past their best sporting years, he maintains the excellence of his prime.


Which makes me wonder – to what age do some top sportsmen continue at a high level?

Kim Collins ran his best time in the one hundred meter sprint last year. A blistering 9,93 seconds at the age of ....forty. This was after he had competed five times as an Olympian. Merlene Ottey, another fine sprinter from the Caribbean, won nine medals at no less than seven Olympic Games, her last at age forty four. Two stand out athletes as strength and reflexes are of the first advantages of youth to give when years creep on.


At home we have Victor Matfield who played for the Springbok rugby team last year at the age of thirty eight. In other tough sports, there was Saoul Mamby who once held a world boxing title, made the proverbial comeback, and fought competitively at age sixty. George Blanda played professional American football at age forty eight. Nancy Lieberman played professional basketball until fifty. How the human body can withstand such continual battering is beyond me.

Moving on to gentler pastimes where fine motor skills carry the day. Gary Player kept to the professional Golf circuit until the age of seventy three and is famous for saying “The more I practice the luckier I get”. In India Raja Singh played first class cricket at age seventy two. Howzat!?


Fast forward, way forward, to some vintage Golden Oldies.

Last year I had the privilege of competing in the World Masters Athletics Championships. I was part of the "Oldie Team" from South Africa, as my children say. In Australia I watched in wonder as Hugo Delgado beat five contestants to win the one hundred meters sprint in his age category. He is ninety one. Shortly after his race he danced on end in front of the live band at the stadium. Imagine that energy and joie de vivre as a nonagenarian. (Only four decades and I’m there.)

Recently the ninety six year old Jonathan Mendes finished the New York Marathon. While it took him more than eleven hours to shuffle the distance, he said: “I can still do these things and I’m in good health. I’m just so grateful for it.” Connie Brown has run a staggering 36 New York Marathons, her last one at age seventy one.

Certainly the top spot for grizzled gamboling goes to Stanislaw Kowalski from Poland. He won the short sprint at the Polish national championships at age of one hundred and five. One hundred and five! His performance necessitated a new age category for Masters Athletics.


Is there a point in my relaying these impressive feats of respected sportsmen and women? I can highlight the health benefits of exercise and how it keeps the mind and body younger. Or I can elaborate on the everlasting joy and challenge of sporting activity. But this is clear and known already.

Let’s just say that sometimes a good thing can last a long, long time.

Main Image: Eric Holmlund

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Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #18

Dean Owen That is impressive Dean. Looks like you hit your golden period twenty four years late. Never a more elegant diver than Greg Louganis.

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #17

Ken Boddie Crossfit is for general fitness and shedding weight. A slim chance but sometimes shed happens :)

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #16

Ken Boddie Crossfit is good for general fitness and for shedding weight. It gives a slim chance to reach pound zero - but sometimes shed happens :)

Ken Boddie

4 years ago #15

#18 Hey you guys, what's this 'crossfit'? Is it related to a 'hissy fit' or is it what I deteriorate into when I fall off the cross trainer? 🤣

Dean Owen

4 years ago #14

I was a breaststroke specialist, at my peak doing regular 1m11s for the 100m, which back in 1961 would have been a World Record. I was just 24 years too late. Spitz was an idol to me back then, as were Moses, Louganis, Biondi, Thorpe and of course Katajima in the years following. Crossfit is way too strenuous for me. Liquid sports only please! 🍺🍻🍾🍶🍸

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #13

Dean Owen Anthony Irvin - watch out for Dean Owen's front crawl - that is after we have finished our pub crawl. A sport that has really caught on here and in the US is Crossfit - good for all round fitness and not too hard on the joints. They now even have a 60+ age class. A mention also of Mark Spitz - another golden swimmer. Cheers Dean!

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #12

Donna-Luisa Eversley You ARE a Goldie star Donna-Luisa! On a converse note to the post - on Saturdays I coach three young school athletes. Helping to grow their skill and confidence is one of the most satisfying experiences I have had in sport. Thanks for reading and glad it had you in golden reverie.

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #11

I do mention cricket in the post - Raja Singh from India who played first class at age seventy two.

Dean Owen

4 years ago #10

I could hear an almost audible collective sigh from my beBee screen during that last set, a sigh that turned into respect and huge admiration for both gladiators. Unfortunately for me I have had my last rugby match, my last cricket game. A tennis sprain that never really healed has basically confined me to watersports and pub crawls (that's a sport, right?). Also a shout out to Anthony Ervin for defying gravity in an Olympic pool.

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #9

Ian Weinberg The mind state of purpose, confidence and belief is spot on. Perhaps, in especially endurance sport, there is also the ability to block out discomfort. Also the capacity to enjoy and live the moment. As they say "oud maar nog lank nie koud". Dankie Ian.

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #8

Pascal Derrien I read that in one of his marathons, Jonathan Mendes was accompanied on the run by his grandson. Should we be so fortunate one day :)

Pascal Derrien

4 years ago #7

Beautiful running pic :-) at the beginning Jonathan Mendes is a running legend :-) Good picks Gert Scholtz

Ian Weinberg

4 years ago #6

Once again Gert Scholtz thanks for an enlightening and for us hairless-whiteheads, a most inspiring post. As you know, my default mode is that wellness, performance and inspiring leadership all emanates from a mind state. And I would suggest that the successful mind state in regard to sporting success and achievement is a combination of purpose, confidence and belief. Nog n inspirerende pos - dankie!

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #5

CityVP \ud83d\udc1d Manjit Glad to find another tennis enthusiast such as yourself. I go for the occasional knock-around on a court with my son who is a very good player. It is then when it really sinks in just how good these superstars are. Thank you for article on Joe Louis - it is tragic – but I think a fate that unfortunately befalls many. I have heard of this in the music industry as well – apparently Rod Stewart had to revive his career due to taxes owed. If there is a next Federer / Nadal match I will phone you cross-Atlantic so you don’t miss it again! Thanks for your extensive comments Manjit.

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #4

Ken Boddie Well, I will never think of a “dose of the runs” as my exercise regime anymore! In your beautiful and friendly country was “up there” quite literally jumping into the sandpit. The event was one of those experiences that last a lifetime. And I hope Australia will be host again soon. Thanks for your compliment from across the pond Ken.

CityVP Manjit

4 years ago #3

This is a part of story. Anyone who follows tennis knew that a Federer and Nadal meeting at this stage of their careers was the makings of a classic. Usually the hype does not deliver but here are two of the greatest ambassdors for their sport and the two titans in terms of records - it is phenomenal to think that Nadal is one grand-slam away from overhauling Pete Sampras. Anyone who watched Pete Sampras in his prime would have asked if there ever will be a better tennis player than him. Remarkably there was and there was not just one better than him but two. At the Australian Open of 2017 these two met and I forgot to set my alarm clock - but in this age of 24/7 media - I did not otherwise miss this tick of history. The question of retirement depends on whether age has become the detriment. Sometimes it becomes a danger as it as proved in dangerous sports such as boxing Muhammad Ali being one of those sports legends who paid a heavy price for lingering in a brutal sport. Joe Louis's story is even more incredulous, he had to fight beyond what was safe for him due to reasons that are astonishing. In World War II Joe Louis contributed to the war effort and in any story, his contributions would be lauded as patriotic and beyond self. That is until the IRS reviewed his file and demanded he pay taxes on the earnings he gave to his country - for the bureaucratic reason that his contributions were not recognized by the IRS - Louis had to be paraded around the ring. Read his story here Gert, it is astonishing !!!

Ken Boddie

4 years ago #2

Athletes on a mission, one and all, Gert, and you are up there with them. There's absolutely no doubt that a lifestyle of healthy exercise and diet produces good runners and leads to long lasting benefits. A less than healthy diet, however, can also induce short busts of exercise which may also have long lasting effects. I refer, of course, to the resultant internal cleansing process, otherwise known as a 'dose of the runs'. 😔

Gert Scholtz

4 years ago #1

Praveen Raj Gullepalli I was amazed at Federer’s performance last weekend and thought I would search a bit on older top class sportsmen. What a surprise I found! As you say – same with many rockers and musicians that never stop. Thanks for stopping by and the links on Pocket Hercules and Iyengar.

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