Olga Kotelko: Track and Field Superstar
April 1, 2014
The question Olga Kotelko is asked most frequently is simply this: “What’s your secret?” The answer that the track-and-field star — a former elementary school teacher now 95 and perhaps the planet’s most famous masters athlete — usually gives is “Enjoy life.”
So simple. And yet Kotelko, who took up the sport at 77, holds 26 world records, and still competes in 11 events (including sprints, high jump, and javelin), actually has a meatier playbook. Indeed, the subject of the recently published bestseller What Makes Olga Run? has some specific rituals that help keep her in peak form. For example, between international meets, in the privacy of her West Van home, she deploys a 90-minute program of her own devising that combines reflexology, stretching, and massage. Lying in bed in the dark of night, she moves from the tips of her toes to the top of her scalp. “I do every part of my face as well.”
Kotelko calls it the O.K. Technique (after her initials) and diagrams it in her own new book, Olga: The O.K. Way to a Healthy, Happy Life (Friesen Press). She swears it’s a key piece of her preternatural youth. The exercises are best committed to memory before you start. Even Kotelko hasn’t yet found a way to read in the dark.
1,266 calories burned in one hour by a 155-pound person running continuous short sprints at 11 mph
Tips from the pro
Grab some air Breathe deeply — in for a count of four, out for a count of 10 — at regular intervals or just when you’re feeling stressed. Calms the nerves.
Take a load off Lie with back on floor and feet up at 45° for 20 to 30 minutes. To be done once a day or before a big event (restores energy).
Make a fist Take hold of a sponge ball the size of a billiard ball. Start with just a few squeezes and add one a day. May help prevent arthritis and open energy flow through the body.
Bring Grandma The Greyhounds (Olga’s club) concentrates on masters (35+) and seniors (55+). Coaches Harold Morioka and Sam Walker lead athletes to compete within their age group. Every Monday and Wednesday, they oversee tailored training programs. Greyhoundstrack.com
Bring a Defibrillator Thunderbirds is the most competitive club in the city. A dozen coaches work with all levels — programs are offered for athletes ages eight and up — and workouts are spread between UBC, Point Grey Secondary, and St. George’s school. Thunderbirdstrack.org