Follow five athletes as they travel to Lahti, Finland for a large competition. Now this sounds like your typical documentary about the training habits and competitions of athletes, but it isn't. These aren't your typical athletes as they are all senior citizens. The competition they are traveling to is the 2009 World Masters Athletics Championships in track and field. Jiri Soukup, Gabre Gabric, Herbert Liedtke, Alfred Proksch, and Ilse Pleuger are all 80-years-old or older. Some of these athletes are over 90. Pretty impressive!
Jiri (82), a high jumper, climbs stairs during his training sessions, Alfred (100) still works as a nude model, Gabre (94) teaches aerobic classes, Herbert runs the 100 metre sprint, and Ilse (95) can still dance around like a woman half her age. All use different methods to accomplish their goals.
At the Masters competitions the athletes compete only against those in their age category then your results are "normalized" with an age factor so it is comparable to that of other athletes. There was never a moment while watching the film where I was not thinking that these athletes were amazing. That they are double my age and still competing at their ages is amazing plus that they still have the energy and desire to compete is truly special.
The film allows us to follow these men and women around and walk a mile in their shoes. And these are miles that we will probably never walk as by that age most of us will be in retirement facilities just living out the last few years of our lives.
When I first read about this documentary I was sceptical to say the least. I felt that it had no chance to not be a kind of freak show, but boy, was I wrong! Never once during the course of the documentary does director Jan Tenhaven make the five seem like oddballs; they are just shown as role models. It also breaks down all the stereotypes about older people. I will no longer lump them all into one category as they are all very different.
That and showing that there is no one way to stay healthy and active late in life as they all live very different lives. Not worrying about it seems to help. Though they are remarkable they have not avoided the sadness associated with losing people because they have lived long lives. Most of the people they have known over the course of their lives are gone and there is a certain longing in all of them due to that. Moments of melodrama creep into the film when each of the five talk about knowing that the end is near yet they keep moving forward.
Maybe they enter the competitions so they don't feel alone. The biggest reason they seem to still do it is their drive. They all are still very competitive. It doesn't matter to them that with each passing year they get a little slower; they still go on. They just adjust their goals and forge forward.
Though the film uses typical elements – a big competition and older subjects – it rises above the usual fare by remaining focused on the five older subjects. A crowd pleaser. Young and old will be moved by the courage and dedication shown by these amazing athletes. It might even encourage some out there to get more active.