Centenarian sets various world records in track and field


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Don Pellmann, pictured at age 90, wears some of his eight gold medals after setting seven world records in Fort Collins, Colo. in 2005.

SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of The Santa Clara Weekly

We are living longer and healthier lives, and there are seniors everywhere who are proving it’s never too late to succeed at new goals and reach new heights.

Amazing senior Don Pellmann, now retired at 102 and caring for his wife in Santa Clara, Calif., competed at the age of 100 for world records as the most senior athlete in the San Diego Senior Olympics in 2015 where he set five world records. He beat the record in the 100-meter dash, and became the first centenarian to clear an official height in the high jump. He set records in the long jump, the discus throw and the shot put.

Fellow competitors at the Senior Olympics sought him out for selfies, including Robert Silva, 57, who said, “You see people that are 100 run, but to see someone that age pole vault or long jump, that’s another galaxy.”

Awed by Pellmann’s fitness level, students from San Diego State’s nursing program and Mesa College’s track team expressed their admiration.

“He’s very, very steady on his feet, and his posture’s very erect, said nursing student Sarah Provencher. “He doesn’t have as much bone and muscle degeneration as others in his age group. You can see he has really maintained his muscles.”

Pellmann’s gymnast and high jumper days of his youth in college in Wisconsin were cut short by the Great Depression when he quit the track team to get a job. He raised three children with his wife Marge, and retired from his work with General Electric in 1970.

He was not involved in athletics for 58 years other than occasional bowling, softball and golf. He entered a masters track meet at the urging of one of his children and did so well that he kept going.

“I’ve been in 127 meets since,” Pellmann said.

Pellmann is the word record holder for men 90 or older in the indoor pole vault, long jump, high jump and discus from the Rocky Mountain Masters Games in 2005 at Colorado State University, winning eight gold medals. Currently he holds the American records in the javelin throw, the 100 meters, shot put and triple jump.

Ardy Riego, an athletic trainer at Mesa College, gave Pellman’s legs a massage at the Senior Olympics.

“All I can say is his body is still functioning like a normal person’s body, which is amazing,’’ Riego said.

Pellmann said during his competitive years, “I do something every day, if nothing but long brisk walks. I try to do what I can at least once a week.” He explained, “If I can have any special reason to brag, it is that I do all of them — run, jump, throw things and pole vault.”

Pellmann cannot remember his last injury, and he has never had a knee replacement. “I guess I have pretty good genes,” he said. 

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