Think you’re too old to compete? Think again!

Tales of older athletes serve to inspire us

letters@thetribunenews.comAugust 1, 2013 

The 34th Annual SLO Triathlon takes place on Sunday, July 28, 2013 at Sinsheimer Park/SLO Swim Center in San Luis Obispo. This short course triathlon consists of a 1/2 mile swim, 15 mile bike and 3.1 mile run. Participants are sent on the course in waves throughout the day. Triathlon participants cross Laurel Lane for the last few hundred yards of the bicycle portion of the race.

LAURA DICKINSON — ldickinson@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

For anyone over 50 who’s ever engaged — or fantasized about engaging — in competitive sport at any level, news that a 53-year-old man had not only won the 2013 SLO Triathlon but had also broken the previous record was sweet indeed. Electrifying, even.

If he could do that, there was hope for the rest of us!

So quick, where did we put those running shoes — you know, the ones we bought in 2009? And, um, whatever happened to that rusty bicycle gathering cobwebs in the corner of the garage?

But there is a postscript to this story: As we now know, Kevin Cooper, 53, did not win the SLO Triathlon, nor did he set a record. Results provided to The Tribune on Sunday were in error.

Or, to put it another way, mistakes were made.

The winner, as it turned out, was 29-year-old Eric Blane of Tulare, who finished in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 9 seconds.

Cooper’s actual time was 1 hour, 19 minutes, 16 seconds.

In retrospect, perhaps we at The Tribune should have been more skeptical of the initial results … at least, that’s what some of the younger staffers say.

And yet … it isn’t totally outside the realm of possibility that a 53-year-old man could win, not when you stop and consider the growing list of accomplishments by older athletes, both professional and amateur.

Here are a few:

• The “Iron Nun,” Sister Madonna Buder, didn’t even start running until she was 48, and at 82, set the record as the oldest person to complete an Ironman Triathlon.

• Swimmer Dara Torres won three Olympic silver medals in 2008 at 41, and just missed making the 2012 Olympic team.

• At 49, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a Major League Baseball game.

• Tennis great Martina Navratilova was nearly 50 when she won a mixed doubles championship at the U.S. Open.

• As recently reported in The Tribune, Cambria resident David Yudovin, 62, recently became the first person to swim the 18 miles separating the islands of Maio and Santiago, located in the Cape Verde archipelago off the coast of Africa. That’s one of several record-setting distance swims he’s made.

Finally, before we leave the subject of the SLO Triathlon, we want to point out that there were several over-40 athletes — including Kevin Cooper — among the top 20 finishers.

We want to acknowledge, too, how gracious Cooper was in coming forward to tell us of the mistake, and to ask that the correct first-place finisher be acknowledged.

So thanks, Kevin.

And just so you know, you’ve still inspired us to lace up our running shoes and dust off that bike.

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