Last month, Canadian born, masters track and field star Olga Kotelko passed away at the age of 95. Kotelko’s remarkable, record-breaking athletic career began when she was 77 years old and has been a source of inspiration for many. Olga competed worldwide in sprinting, high jump, long jump, triple jump and her favourite, the hammer throw.
In an interview on BBC World News, conducted when she was 91 years old, Kotelko talks about her love of competition and the joy of camaraderie that comes with being an athlete.
What Makes Olga Run? The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives is a book searching for answers to explain her unique capabilities. The author of the book, Bruce Grierson, who is “convinced that this remarkable woman could help unlock many of the mysteries of aging, set out to uncover what it is that’s driving Olga. He considers every piece of the puzzle, from her diet and sleep habits to how she scores on various personality traits, from what she does in her spare time to her family history”.
In a CBC Q Jian Ghomeshi interview of Olga and author Grierson, he points out that Olga “certainly redefines the phrase ‘late bloomer’”. The interview discusses ‘the importance of her lifestyle choices’ combined with good genes as a possible explanation for her athletic prowess. When asked how much she exercises each day Olga responds by saying that she has no idea because she is “never idle”.
Olga is featured with four other athletes in Grey Glory: a documentary about Canadian seniors who are pushing their bodies to the limit. The documentary’s message is that it’s never to late to start exercising. To illustrate that message it “tells the story of five Canadian athletes in the 65-plus age group who are defying the stereotype of seniors as frail, slow and unfit. Also featured in the film are Regina runner/triathlete Milos Kostic, 72, who has competed in more than 20 Ironman triathlons; Calgary gymnast Ed Vincent, 76; Winnipeg bodybuilder Tom Heffner, 68; and West Vancouver’s Christa Bortignon, 76, who was so moved by Kotelko’s successes that she also took up track and field in her 70s”.
Kotelko wrote her own book shortly before she passed away entitled Olga: The O.K. Way to a Healthy, Happy Life where she extolls the virtues of focusing “less on my age and more on how I age”. Olga encourages older adults to embrace the pleasures of physical, mental and spiritual well-being by offering tips on how to stay fit.
Check out Olga’s website where she is described as an individual who “believed an optimistic attitude and regular exercise contribute to good health, better energy, and a happier disposition”.