2019 Dubai IPC Diary: Age is no barrier...

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Zeljko Dimitrejevic.jpgZeljko Dimitrejevic, photo by IPC

In this final column of the IPC Dubai event, Stuart Weir wrote this thoughtul piece on the ageless fields of the championships.

Age is no barrier

One of the more surprising aspects of the athletes participating in the 2019 Para Athletics World Championships in Dubai, was the age range, 14 to 71! In a non-exhaustive look at the athletes' ages, I identified 45 athletes 41 years old or older. (I would stress that I have not had time to check the age of all 1400 athletes so the likelihood is that my numbers are indicative but not comprehensive). In this article I will look at the 45 senior athletes to see what we can learn about the kind of older person who are participating in the world championship.

My sample includes 36 athletes aged 41-49, five in their 50s, three in their sixties and the oldest of the lot Ol Toshie from Japan, aged 71, competing in the seated F53 shot put. The 45 senior athletes are from 30 countries including Mongolia, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia. 31 are wheelchair users, 8 have cerebral palsy, 5 have visual impairment and 1 is an amputee. With regard to events, 28 are in throwing events, 12 are wheelchair racers, 2 do long jump and 3 are guides for blind runners.

Interestingly there were five throwing events for wheelchair-based athletes where there were a disproportionate amount of older athletes. In the F54 Women's shot, half the competitors were 41 or over, in the women's F56 Javelin one third of competitors were 44 or over and in the men's F53 shot five of eight entrants were 42 or over. In the women's T52 100 metres (wheelchair) race the five competitors were 60, 46, 44, 43 and 35. The Result of the F52 men's discus was 1 Aigars Apinis (Latvia) age 46, 2 Piotr Kosewicz (Poland) age 45 and 3 Robert Jachimowicz (Poland) age 52

Other senior medalists included:

  • Ito Tomoya (Japan) two bronze and silver in F52 100, 400, 1500 age 56.
  • Teruyo Tanaka from Japan, aged 60, won silver in the F52 wheelchair 100m in a time of 22.85
  • Zeljko Dimitrejevic from Serbia won gold in the F41 club throw with a distance of 33.82m, aged 48. Jo Butterfield, medalist in the women's club throw described her event as people who can't grip throwing a club as far as they can - a contradiction in terms or a superhuman feat.

Other significant performances included:

  • Martina Willing of Germany set the F56 World Javelin record in 2008 which still stands. She finished fifth this year - now aged 60
  • Fifty-nine year old Ljiljana Ljubisic, Canada, was seventh in F11 discus with 26.62m
  • Sixty-nine year-old Martha Gustafson (Canada) F53 was seventh in the discus final. Her distance was well short of the winner but still a remarkable achievement to be there. Didn't De Coubertin say that it was not the winning but the taking part?
  • Mondrag Hernandez, Mexico, 5th in T52 100 aged 56
  • In the F56 javelin throw, four of the twelve finalists were in their 40s. Nadia Medjmedj of Algeria was fourth with 21 meters exactly, setting an African record. Nelly Sile with 14.60 set a Kenya record
  • At the age of 47, Shigekazu Omori guided Chiaki Takada through the prelim and to third place in the semi-final

Finally OI Toshie (Japan) was fifth out of eight in F53 shot, Aged 71, he was the oldest competitor.

It is a remarkable aspect of Para athletics that it can accommodate the 14 year-old and the 71 year-old.

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