Dan O’Brien

All eyes are on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. But for competitive athletes of all ages, all eyeglasses may be on the 2021 Kansai World Masters Games.

The Masters are an international multi-sport event, held every four years much like the Olympics, except for people aged 30 and older. And “older” could mean well past the century mark. Hidekichi Miyazaki, at the age of 105, is the world record holder for the 100-meter sprint in his age group, with a time at 42.22 seconds.

With advances in health sciences, medicine, diet, people are living longer, more active lives than ever before, particularly in the economically mature nations. And if you were a competitive person in your twenties, it’s likely you are a competitive person in your fifties, sixties and seventies. The Masters have provided that outlet for the high-performance athlete who thinks she’s never too old.

On July 18, Dan O’Brien turned 50. The still youngish looking O’Brien from Portland Oregon was crowned World’s Greatest Athlete when he won gold in the decathlon at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Today, O’Brien still stays in shape, and along with Dr Vonda Wright, think you – the 50-, 60-something – can definitely get in shape. You just need to stop telling yourself you can’t. Go to this Sports Illustrated article to see why these myths are just myths:

MYTH #1: It’s all downhill after 50

MYTH #2: Older athletes should avoid vigorous exercise

MYTH #3: Older athletes just get hurt

MYTH #4: Too late to start

Ready to get off your butt?

Don Pellmann, picture by Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times
Don Pellmann, picture by Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times

Last Sunday at the San Diego Senior Games, a man named Don Pellmann set records in the 100-meter dash, the shot put, the discus and the long jump.

Yes, he ran the 100 in 26.99 seconds (which is over 17 seconds slower than Usain Bolt’s world record), but Pellmann set the record for the 100-and-over age group. In fact, Pellmann is exactly 100 years of age.

Successful athletes, scientists, businessmen, students know this. You need to set goals and targets, and sometimes to drive you to incredible heights, you need aspirational targets. According to this wonderful New York Times article, Pellmann targeted the world record for 100 and overs –  29.83 – which had been held by a Japanese man, Hidekichi Miyazaki, since 2010. So he marked off 100 meters at his home and ran it once a week.

Within a week of Pullmann’s record, Miyazaki set the world record for the 100 meter run for the over-105 category with a time of 42.22 seconds. That’s right. Miyazaki is 105 and still flying down the track. His quote in this Japan Times article is priceless: “I’m not happy with the time,” the pint-size Miyazaki said in an interview after catching his wind. “I started shedding tears during the race because I was going so slowly. Perhaps I’m getting old!”

Hidekichi Miyazaki, AFP-JIJI
Hidekichi Miyazaki, 105, imitates the pose of Usain Bolt after the 100-meter-dash in the Kyoto Masters Autumn Competiton in Kyoto on Wednesday. Miyazaki has been recognized as the oldest sprinter who competed in a 100-meter-dash by the Guinness World Records. | AFP-JIJI

But then again, as it was revealed in this NBC Sports blog report, Stanislaw Kowalski has the fastest time in the world for the 0ver-105 year old category, as he ran the 100 meters in 34.50 seconds. Despite the fact that Miyazaki’s time is officially recognized by Guinness World Record, Kowalski of Poland set that record in June.

At any rate, these gentleman can run.

Whether you’re an up-and-coming high schooler dreaming of winning your state conference championship, or a 75-year old with hopes of winning the decathlon at the World Masters’ Athletic Championships, you are often cut from the same cloth – a personality rooted in the need for competition, and a desire