101 year-old wins gold at World Masters Games

Spectators at the Waitakere athletics venue had plenty of time to savour the most inspirational performance of the World Masters Games so far.

World-class sprinters can usually cut out 100 metres in about 10-11 seconds - if you're a recreational athlete, something around 13-15 seconds isn't too bad.

When you're 101 years old, you set your own standards.

So it was that Indian woman Man Kaur wowed the crowd with her 1m 14.58s dash down the home straight, capturing the hearts and admiration of everyone on hand.

As the oldest entry at the WMG2017, her arrival in New Zealand was much heralded and since arriving a week ago, she has spent most of her time among Auckland's Indian community, while also training for her events.

This was her first of four - she has also entered the 200 metres, shot and javelin later this week.

Man Kaur from India celebrates her 100m win. Photo / Michael Craig
Man Kaur from India celebrates her 100m win. Photo / Michael Craig

Arriving early at Trusts Arena, Man Kaur made her way immediately to the 100 metres start, where she seemed - at first glance - to be someone's grandmother, here to wish her relative luck and perhaps bless their efforts.

The competitor's number on her chest gave away her real intentions. The first three digits of her number - 10001 - represented her age group, the last two showed her athlete allocation.

Man Kaur was, indeed, the only athlete in her category.

She sat, wisely, watching younger women file fast to the start-line, a moment of mutual admiration, if ever there was one. Son and constant companion Gurdev Singh departed to warm up for his own 75=79 100 metres final.

Media began to gather, photographers requested photo opportunities, but their efforts were rightly shut down, so Man Kaur could focus on her preparation, which seemed to be entirely mental.

Her serenity was further shattered though. Officials descended, informing her she had not reported to the call tent at the far end of the field.

Thankfully, a golf cart arrived to whisk her off for the formalities, but seven minutes before her scheduled start time, there was still no sign of the guest of honour. The cart came hurtling back down the track, but Man Kaur's opportunity to loosen up with a stride out or two was gone.

She stood to attention, jogging up and down lightly on the spot in readiness. She shared the track with two comparatively spritely 85-89 year olds, who seemed in awe of their rival.

The gun sounded, the youngsters quickly galloped off, but Man Kaur was undeterred, striding along as her own pace.

At one stage, she seemed likely to break the mystical one-minute mark, but it wasn't to be.
Man Kaur crossed the line to rapturous applause, mobbed by paparazzi wanting to record this moment, reporters seeking the secrets of long life and just about everyone else wanting a selfie with this true force of nature.

"She is very happy being here," said her translator. "She feels like everybody here is her son."
Man Kaur began her track and field career seven years ago, at the age of 94, and has trained with her son ever since.

"Whatever he does, she does," said the translator. "She keeps herself busy and healthy with walking, running and cooking.

"While there is life, she will never give up - she loves to run."

Off to the side, Clasina van der Veeken, 85, from Whangarei watched in amazement. She had just won a silver medal in her category and had finished about 40 seconds ahead of Man Kaur in the same race.

"It was something special," said van der Veeken. "I was very pleased she was so healthy and still can do it.

"I'd like to keep doing that if I can."

It was time for Man Kaur, still smiling, to move off to post-race processing and a medal ceremony.

What would she do once the World Masters Games were over?

"She is going to run again," insisted her translator. "There is no full stop."

- NZ Herald

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