They spent most of their lives in relative obscurity. Now, at the fag end of their journey, they have covered themselves in sporting glory.
Just google Fauja Singh or Mann Kaur, and you will end up with search results running into six digits. The reason? Fauja and Mann – both centenarian runners – hold the world record in their respective events.
Hundred-year-old Mann from Chandigarh recently hit the headlines by becoming the world’s fastest centenarian at the American Masters Games in Vancouver. The great grandmother’s next target is the 2017 World Masters Games – considered the Olympics for veterans – in Auckland. She will compete in the 100m, 200m, javelin and shot put events.
“She came down with fever after her arrival from Vancouver. It took a great toll on her, and I thought she won’t survive. Thankfully, she has recovered now,” says Gurdev Singh, her 78-year-old son, who has won dozens of medals too. Mann’s journey into the sporting world began at the age of 93. She turned out to be a natural.
At the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships, she won the 100m and 200m gold – setting new world records in the process. She was adjudged the ‘Athlete of the Year’.
The elderly woman, who has won 17 international medals (all gold), believes the secret of good health lies in food. “Start the day with a glass of kefir and eat chapatis made of sprouted wheat. There is no place for fried food,” she says.
Fauja, having featured with soccer star David Beckham and boxing legend Muhammad Ali in a 2004 Adidas advertisement, is better acquainted with fame. He is the only centenarian to have run a marathon, clocking 8:25:17 in 2011.
Even at 105, Fauja runs five miles every day. “For the last 20 years, running has been an integral part of my life. You can say I live to run. The day I stop running, I will die,” says Fauja, a resident of Beas in Jalandhar district.
Nicknamed the Turbaned Tornado, Fauja ran his first marathon at the age of 89. Four years later, he completed the task in 6 hours and 54 minutes, almost an hour faster than the previous record in the 90-plus category.