93-year-old West Van athlete determined to shatter world records

Writing new records -  Olga Kotelko, a 93-year-old track-and-field world record holder from West Van, flips through the chapters of an autobiographical book she’s writing.   - Michaela Garstin
Writing new records - Olga Kotelko, a 93-year-old track-and-field world record holder from West Van, flips through the chapters of an autobiographical book she’s writing.
— image credit: Michaela Garstin

Olga Kotelko doesn’t plan to spend her 94th year sipping tea in a rocking chair.

Instead, she is determined to break her old track-and-field world records in sprinting, high jump, shot put and javelin, discus and hammer throw.

Next year, she’ll be competing against other women aged 90 to 94 and the year after she’ll jump into the 95 to 100-year-old age bracket.

Today, Kotelko is better at hammer throw ­— her favourite sport ­­— than she was five years ago. In Riccioni, Italy, at 88 years young, she threw 14.22 metres. Four years later, in Sacramento, California, she made 16.71 metres.

What’s Kotelko’s trick to staying young? There isn’t one.

“Be sensible. Exercise, eat good food — I mean nutritious food, not fast food and no bar-hopping,” she tells The Outlook with a laugh.

There are no fancy diets, vitamins or workout routines for this 93-year-old. She takes exercise lessons at the West Vancouver Rec Centre pool and takes daily: one baby Aspirin and calcium, vitamins D and E and glucosamine pills.

“I always wanted to feel young and capable, be healthy and vibrant and, yes, sexy,” she says, adding the word “sexy” shouldn’t be taboo for seniors.

“It’s about looking nice, taking care of yourself. We should always want to look attractive, no matter our age.”

Kotelko also does hand exercises with stress balls, part of the routine she’s dubbed OK Stress Exercises after her initials.

She does the hour-and-a-half routine three times a week in bed.

“Everyone is different, so do the exercises when it’s most convenient for you,” she recommends.

The best time for Kotelko is in the middle of the night when she can’t fall back asleep.

“I don’t like to waste time,” she says in a matter-of-fact way. “And the bed is warm.”

Kotelko demonstrates how stress balls, bought from a dollar store, are placed between each finger to help keep her hands from getting stiff and cold from poor circulation.

As the seventh of 11 children born on a farm in Saskatchewan, Kotelko is used to eating healthy, homemade food. She remembers back to a time when cows were milked by hand twice a day and the family planted their own vegetables and baked fresh bread.

“It was all organic, but we didn’t call it that,” she says. “I think the only thing we bought was sugar, fruit and spices.”

The proud grandma has now lived in West Van for 23 years.

Giving advice to other seniors has become routine for Kotelko. She spoke at Churchill House Retirement Community on Nov. 20 about how to get involved in sports on the North Shore.

No age is ever too old, Kotelko says, noting she didn’t start track-and-field until 77 years old.

The details of Kotelko’s OK Stress Exercises are in the autobiographical/how-to book she’s writing.

“At first I just wanted to explain the exercises but someone mentioned people would be interested in my life, what I do to stay healthy,” she says, flipping through the stapled chapters on her dining room table.

The book is slated to be released on her 94th birthday this March. Kotelko is tight lipped about one chapter titled Secrets but she promises “something big.”

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