92-year-old athlete Olga Kotelko shows no signs of stopping
By Brent Mattson
The B.C. Catholic
VANCOUVER--Hard core athletes usually retire when they get "up there" in their sporting years, usually in their late 30s or early 40s. Not so for Olga Kotelko. The West Vancouver track and field star is in her 90s and believes that she can compete forever.
"If I was jumping at 89, why can't I jump at 90?" asked the 92-year-old, who competes in the 90-94 category at track-and-field meets. "So when I started jumping I created all of the world records."
At 90 years of age, Kotelko earned the world records in her limited age group for high jump, long jump, triple jump, 100-metre dash, 200-metre, 400-metre, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer throw, and weight throw. Despite these achievements, the devout Ukrainian Catholic and retired teacher remains modest.
"Records are made to be broken, and I have broken some of them already," Kotelko said.
She began competing in track and field after retiring from her coed slow-pitch team. She played on the team from ages 70 to 75, trying most positions on the field.
Now Kotelko trains regularly, attending aquafit classes three times per week as well as regularly practising her sprints, jumps, and throws at West Vancouver Secondary School's field near her home. This regimen often comes after hours working in the garden followed by a Sudoku or two.
On alternate days she also does her patented OK (short for Olga Kotelko) stretch exercises.
"It's a program I developed for myself by myself," she said. "It takes an hour an a half do to these exercise and incorporates my whole body tip to toe. I think that as well it keeps my mind acute and my strength and my (positive) outlook on life."
A parishioner at St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Vancouver, Kotelko says her faith is something else keeping her going.
"Before competition, there's a lot of meditation, a lot of prayers," she said. "I thank God, because He has given me the strength, capability, and knowledge to do different events and do so well. I thank God for all of that."
"I'm sure I'm blessed," she added. "I thank God every night in my prayers for helping me through my day."
Kotelko recently competed in the 32nd Annual Pacific Invitational 2011 B.C. Masters Championship at McCloud Athletic Park in Langley June 18 and 19.
She took part in discus, javelin, long jump, and weight throw on the Saturday and triple jump and 100-metre dash on the Sunday. She would have competed in more, but opted out because of the weather.
"I scratched the first two events because my feet were sopping wet in my shoes, and I'm not going to run (the 200-metre dash) in wet lanes, with puddles all the way," Kotelko said.
"There were also puddles on the run to the high jump and then you jump into a sopping mat; that was another one I scratched."
Overall, she was pleased with her performance results in Langley, winning in all six of her competitions. But she would have preferred to have some competition, as she was the only person in the women's 90-94 category.
"I hate it because I'd like to be challenged and I like competitors," Kotelko said. "It's the real thing if you're competing against somebody, (but) the number gets smaller and smaller as I get older."
Luckily she won't have to wait long for some competition, with the World Masters Athletics Championships in Sacramento coming up July 6 to 17.
"If you want to get any seniors, that's where they'll come," the nonagenarian said. "There's supposedly going to be three women in my age group. I'm really looking forward to it."