Olga Kotelko, at age 91 known as the oldest long jump competitor in the world, was nominated as one of the 12,000 XXI Winter Olympic Games Torch Bearers.
Holding history in her hands, she carried the Olympic flame in the Vancouver 2010 Torch Relay on Wednesday, February 10 at 7:45 p.m., on Marine Drive in West Vancouver between 15th and 17th Street.
“I am so very happy and so overwhelmed to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said an emotional Kotelko before the event. “Carrying the Torch represents inspiration, dedication, hope, perseverance and community spirit. To me, this Flame is a shining symbol saluting good health and well being.”
This diminutive and personable former teacher from Burnaby, BC is a role model for youngsters, masters and seniors. Since 1997, at the age of 77, Olga Kotelko has been running, jumping and throwing – and breaking Canadian and World records in the W80, W85 and W90 age categories.
Starting with the World championships in Gateshead in 1999, she has competed internationally, indoors as well as out, winning hundreds of gold medals.
Her W85 record for the high jump, set in the 2004 B.C. Masters athletics championships in Penticton, earned her an age-graded ranking of 92.64%. In May at the 2009 B.C. Masters athletics championships in Nanaimo, she set 8 World Records, plus two national marks for a total of 10 Canadian records. She competed in the women shot put 90-94 years and broke the world record during the 2009 Sydney World Masters Games at Sydney Olympic Park on October 11, 2009 in Sydney, Australia.
"Through sport and exercise, I try to promote the importance of maintaining a healthy body, mind and spirit," Olga explained.
In total, Olga Kotelko has 5 bronze, 12 silver and 600 gold medals scored in hammer throw, shot put, javelin, discus and weight throw, as well as long jump, discus, shot put, high jump, triple jump and 100m, 200m and 400m.
Olga Kotelko's achievements have not gone unnoticed.
Besides having been named BC’s Masters Athlete of the Year, she has also won the Vancouver YWCA’s Women of Distinction in Sports award. In her West Vancouver community, she is sought after as a motivational speaker for seniors, and is well known in her local elementary school where she coaches the shot put. Olga Kotelko is also included in the Canadian Masters Athletics Hall of Fame.
“I am enjoying the benefits of doing what I started at the age of 77… track and field” she stated. “As the Chinese expression says: “It is not how old we are, it is how we get old!”