"The Incredible Flying Nonagenarian"
December 8, 2010 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Olga Kotelko is 91, and she has probably set more athletic world records—and will continue to set more—than most of us will in our lives. We all age, but she is aging differently. Scientists are trying to figure out why...but she is just trying to find someone who can keep up.
posted by dubitable (25 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
(I guess this was in the NYTimes.)
posted by dubitable at 6:03 PM on December 8, 2010

It's just Mamika off the clock.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:05 PM on December 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

As if Super Mamika wasn't bad it enough, now I feel even more Old'n'Busted.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:10 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I saw the link to the NY Times original over at Stumptuous a few days ago. Also:
Bitches, please. My osteoporotic 85-year-old grandmother, whose crumbling spine has shrunk her to a 0.8 KU (Krista Unit; 1 KU = 5 feet), is out there dispensing justice to her garden with extreme prejudice and walking in bear country 90 minutes a day. She laughs at your stupid advice. If she had a squat cage she’d be busting out the buttprints on the floor, too, but she’s too busy smashing bears in the face with a shovel.
posted by maudlin at 6:19 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

If she had a squat cage she’d be busting out the buttprints on the floor, too, but she’s too busy smashing bears in the face with a shovel.

Word. Yeah, one thing I should have played up more in the post, which is one of my favorite things about the article, is that the implied recommendations in the piece include—feature—lifting weights, and exercising with intensity. None of this "I'll just be reading my US Weekly for half an hour on the stationary bike while I barely get my heart-rate up" crap that passes for exercise at gyms here...

Unsurprisingly perhaps, I found this here.
posted by dubitable at 6:33 PM on December 8, 2010

One of my favorite people at my gym is a gent in his 80s who works out more vigorously than half the folks there. Occasionally his wife (similarly aged) is with him but most of the time she's out playing golf instead.

They inspire me.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:03 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was really inspired by this 72-year-old weight lifter. Her body looks better than mine. Time to hit the gym...
posted by melissam at 7:35 PM on December 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

Age group athletes are incredible. It's one thing to realize that there is an age group world record for the Men 90 and over marathon (seriously? Guys over the age of 90 run marathons??) and another to discover that his name is Fauja Singh and ran 5:40 when he was 91 (his 90+ 10K record is 1:08. That's 11 minute miles. Six of them. At the age of 93). I figured it would be on the order of "a day or so". I know people sixty years younger than him who would be pretty happy with a time like that.

My personal favorite is Ed Whitlock, who remains the only man over the age of 70 to run under three hours for the marathon. His best time since turning 75? 3:04. Dude's not human.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 7:36 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Olga Kotelko is SO up there on my hero list! Looks like "Old-Man Strength" should be renamed "Tribal Elder Strength". ;-)

Back to the push-ups...
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:40 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eh. I think I could take her.

She would kick my sorry ass.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:41 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm curious as to why this "Staple News" blog is reposting an entire New York Times article, complete with accompanying media and links to other NYT articles in the text itself. Seems like the link should go to the real thing and not whatever questionable revenue-generating project this is.

Good article and a very fascinating lady though.
posted by bookish at 7:53 PM on December 8, 2010

melissam: oh yeah! She's awesome. I totally saw her on this other blog I read sometimes: Ross Training. It can be kind of saccharine, but also very frequently has amazing stories of people being athletic despite their age or limitations...also often has great DIY gym equipment info, and links to interesting boxing vids time to time if you're into that sort of thing.

bookish: yeah, I'll admit I wasn't thinking too hard about it, and only realized after the fact that it was a re-post (-paste?). I'm game for the mods to re-link to the proper article though if something sketchy is going on...at least they reference the original article at the bottom...
posted by dubitable at 8:16 PM on December 8, 2010

Mod note: changed link to NYTimes original at poster's request
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:59 PM on December 8, 2010

This is my friend and former-coworker's 76-year-old father last summer.
posted by jalexei at 9:19 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Let's not forget crazy-ass Jack LaLanne.
posted by electroboy at 10:09 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is a dude in my gym who just took up competitive powerlifting a couple years ago, in his 60s. He's awesome.

It doesn't surprise me that a lot of these really active older people start later--people who compete at an extremely high level when they're young often sacrifice joint health and mobility at an older age for the short-term goals of winning the Olympics or something similar.
posted by Anonymous at 10:50 PM on December 8, 2010

Old people have will-power. Young people have strength. Guess which one ALWAYS wins?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:23 AM on December 9, 2010

My dad still runs half-marathons at age 72. He's psyched because now he has a shot at winning his age group (for one thing, his age group usually consists of three people). It's pretty inspiring.
posted by dfan at 5:59 AM on December 9, 2010

Speaking as a kid of 43, I wanna be her when I grow up!
posted by xenophile at 6:21 AM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

It would be great if someone could do a DNA profile on all the folks mentioned in the article and comments.

There is a very good chance they have favorable genes for their specific sports.

Read, Body by Science, for a detailed list of favorable genes and their benefits.

For instance, almost all professional high altitude climbers have at least of one of the beneficial genes for efficient oxygen conversion.

If these people's stories inspire you, great, but don't expect the same results.
posted by KaizenSoze at 7:57 AM on December 9, 2010

If these people's stories inspire you, great, but don't expect the same results.

This is discussed in the article I linked to. In fact, the question is, how much we can take from these folks in terms of strategies for increasing our non-decrepit lifespan. We need to separate out what is genetic and what is lifestyle:

As the data on Kotelko gather, it’s hard to avoid a conclusion. “Olga has done no more training than many athletes, and yet she’s the one still standing,” Hepple says. “Why? In my mind, it has everything to do with her innate physiological profile.”

This sounds like discouraging news: she is not like us. But understanding Kotelko’s uniqueness may provide benefits for others...

...Presumably, at least some of the interventions that emerge will help mimic, for ordinary people entering their very old years, if not exactly Kotelko’s performance on the track, at least something approaching the quality of her life.

That sounds good enough to me! We don't all need to be professional high altitude climbers or be setting records like Olga Kotelko. But if we could continue to live without decrepitude through exercise and living an otherwise healthy lifestyle, I'm excited by that.

And regardless of what the data says, I'll be exercising intensely until I can't get out of bed.
posted by dubitable at 8:29 AM on December 9, 2010


I agree but the question is what kind of exercise.

For instance, running is great for getting in shape, unless you have knee issues, or worse it gives you knee issues.

Currently, I think specific kinds of weightlifting is all that's needed.

When I say all, I mean just weightlifting, you don't do any cardo.

I have been doing just slow weightlifting for almost two years, feel great, don't have any endurance issues.

Of course, my good response to slow weightlifting might be genetic.

posted by KaizenSoze at 9:03 AM on December 9, 2010

My then 12-year old brother once won 2nd place in a karate tournament because there were three kids in his division and one of them threw up on the mat from stagefright. I was still jealous that he got a trophy and I didn't.
posted by electroboy at 10:10 AM on December 9, 2010

Of course, my good response to slow weightlifting might be genetic.

Totally...I mean, I suspect that, in the end, this is going to be somewhat specific to the individual. I mean, one of the interesting things about Olga Kotelko is that she has "slacked" a bit in recent years, but seems to continue to enjoy the benefits of exercise she had before.

It does seem that exercise, and intense exercise in particular, has positive benefits across the board. And I remember reading about a study recently where cancer risk seems to be mitigated especially well by intense exercise...can't find it, but there's this (see questions 4, 5, etc...).
posted by dubitable at 10:38 AM on December 9, 2010

She reminds me of my grandmother, who is in her 90s and who I want to be when I grow up.

And now I have some notes to take on how to (try to) do it.
posted by rai at 12:04 PM on December 9, 2010

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