Octogenarian comes of age at worlds

Track: Helly Vesser wins three medals in Budapest

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 06:00 am

Eighty-year-old Helly Visser, here running with Roger Davies in Fish Creek in 2010, won two gold medals and a silver at the World Masters Athletic championships in Budapest, Hungary last week.
Eighty-year-old Helly Visser, here running with Roger Davies in Fish Creek in 2010, won two gold medals and a silver at the World Masters Athletic championships in Budapest, Hungary last week.
Wheel file photo

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The young kid on the block took ageing in stride at a world track championship last week.

Former Millarville resident Helly Visser won three medals at the World Masters Indoor Athletics championships in Budapest, Hungary March 25-30.

“I have been looking forward to this for some time because I turned 80 in January,” Visser said. “So that puts me in a new age group from 80 to 84. I am younger than some of the other competitors — I am the young kid on the block.”

The older runners likely heard Visser’s footsteps since she became an octogenarian. Visser has established four world records since turning 80.

“I had been training this winter because I wanted to improve,” Visser said in a phone interview from Budapest. “In competitions in Edmonton the last four months I set four world records.”

Her records were in the 800m (3:46.70), 1,500m (7:38.11), the 3,000m (15:57:07) and the indoor mile (8:19.70) seconds.

She was ready to take on the world.

She won the gold in the 3,000m in a time of 16:12.99 on March 27.

“I was really happy with that,” Visser said. “I was running on the track and it was banked in the corners — I have never ran with that. You get this feeling you have to lean to the middle, but then you are off the track.”

She ran the race with a bunch of youngsters. Some 70 year olds were running in the race.

“Before the race, I checked the bibs to see who was in my age category and I kept track of them,” Visser said. “I was smart enough not to got the very front or else I would be running as fast as the 70 year olds — I couldn’t keep up that pace.”

Visser led all of the 80-year-olds for the entire 3,000m.

In the 800m, Visser finished 10 seconds behind the eventual winner on March 28.

“She (Alice Cole) ran the first lap (200m) in 40 seconds and I ran my first won in 51 seconds,” Visser said.

“She is a great runner from Montreal and I really like her. So I didn’t mind losing to her.”

Visser closed out her Games with a gold medal performance in the metric mile — the 1,500m on March 30.

“It went very well,” she said. “I ran one second slower than my world record but I still am the world champion in the 1,500m.”

Visser is taking on the world now, but she didn’t get into running until she was 50 while doing an exercise class in Millarville in 1984.

She found out she had a competitive edge.

“I took a fitness class at the church hall and our instructor said in our last class: ‘We are going to cap this thing off with a 10 km run’

… During the race I just got caught up in and thinking ‘I want to pass this person and now I want to pass this person.’

“I was a kid back then — just like I am young at heart now.”

Running just lifts her spirits.

“The joy is just amazing,” Visser said. “I am just so happy that I am alive and do what I want to do and live a good life. Running just makes you feel good — there’s something in your brain that makes you feel happy.”

She doesn’t want to stop running anytime soon.

“I want to run for as long as I can do it — why would you stop right now?” Visser said. “My whole life would change because I enjoy it so much.”

Visser was named to the Canadian Masters Hall of Fame in 2010.


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