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by Pauli Poisuo
It’s said that no matter how good you are at something, there’s always someone out there doing it better. Like an old-timey gunslinger who’s finally bested by his younger, faster and far more handsome counterpart. Once age starts to chisel away at experience, we generally don’t expect things to go the opposite way.
And then we learn about badasses like these:
Doris Long: The 101-Year-Old Abseiler
So, Doris Long. Just ... wow. You know what? We’re just going to skip the introductory commentary and cut right to one of the greatest photos we have ever seen. Behold:
Look at that woman. Look at her. She’s at a pants-crapping height of 570 feet, just casually rappelling down the side of Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, UK, all while glancing around like it’s the most unimpressive place she’s ever been. Oh yeah, and Doris Long is 101 years old. And it’s not like she did it on a dare or because she was offered a giant pile of money to star in the most unlikely photo in the world. She’s doing that because she damn well wants to, and also charity.
Of course she managed to raise a decent sum, because you try watching a centenarian happily scale down a building and not start throwing money as a sacrifice to your new-found goddess.
Doris Long, whose name we would not imagine sullying by doing anything but speaking it in full, is an abseiler -- someone who rappels down tall buildings and other sheer surfaces for fun. She’s been an award-winning veteran of the sport for 16 years, which is amazing even before you do the math and realize that this means she first took it up at the age of 85. She enjoys her hobby so much that her first instinct after reaching the ground in this particular event was to wish that she’d still be able to repeat the feat at 102.
Unfortunately, she hasn’t. But at least her Guinness World Record still stands, and probably will for some time.
The Ninja of Heisei: A 74-Year-Old Man
We’re sure that the words “Ninja of Heisei” conjures a very precise mental image: A hyper-agile man dressed in all-black garb, skulking around rooftops and probably doing back flips while throwing shuriken around. For a full eight years, he terrorized the Japanese city of Osaka as an expert cat burglar who performed an estimated 250 break-ins, ever evading the authorities with his nimble tactics that involved running across roofs and walls instead of taking to the streets.
Years flew by, and the police grew desperate as the Ninja of Heisei continued his one-man crime spree. At one point, his total haul was around $260,000, and there was no telling just how long he’d keep going ... until one day, a man thought to be the Ninja made a mistake, and showed his face to a security camera. Unfortunately, this only confused the police further, because the features were not those of the spry young gymnast that they’d been pegging him as. This guy was well into his seventies.
Still, regardless of the big, cartoonish question marks hovering above their heads, the police pounced on their first real clue about the Ninja’s true identity. They started observing the suspect, and although he didn’t initially commit any crimes, they soon discovered that his behavior seemed “different” from other people his age. Unfortunately, they didn’t elaborate, so we’ll just assume it was because he kept doing unnecessary parkour-related activities and somersaulting over 8-foot walls.
And with a badass, tempered sword, obviously.
One night, they finally hit the jackpot when the suspect crept into an abandoned building and slipped on his all-black ninjaing outfit for another busy night of unnecessarily athletic thievery. The investigators pounced on the old man, who ... took it pretty well, as it turns out. When he was arrested, he just calmly commented: “If I were younger, I wouldn’t have been caught. I’ll quit now as I’m 74 and old enough.”
That’s a pretty damn hardass line when you think about it. It’s like he didn’t seriously think that the jig was up -- he was just graciously throwing the cops a bone by letting them cuff him instead of casually disappearing in a cloud of smoke and a trail of caltrops.
Sy Perlis: The World’s Strongest Nonagenarian
Lots of guys take up weightlifting in their later years, as it becomes readily apparent that the love handles their youthful metabolism has managed to keep at bay for the first two or three decades have finally set up shop and brought all of their friends with them. However, this usually happens during your thirties or forties -- those wonderful decades when life keeps dropping fewer subtle hints that you might not be quite as immortal as initial reports led you to believe. More often than not, this kind of gym motivation is of the “New Year’s promise” variety, and tends to evaporate post-haste as cheesecake beckons.
Well, that’s how most people do it, anyway. Sy Perlis is not most people. He took up weightlifting way later than most – in his sixties. And he never, ever stopped. Seriously, never. Check this dude out:
Not only is Perlis amazingly strong for his age (and to be fair, most other ages), he’s pretty much the strongest for his age, period. He won multiple world championships in his eighties, and is the proud holder of the world bench press record in the 90+ age bracket. If you want to feel slightly better about yourself, he’s generally the only competitor in said bracket. If you want to feel worse about yourself, said record was an impressive 187.2 pounds.
Oh, and he did all this by looking like a reasonably passable impression of the Most Interesting Man In The World.
Barbara Smith: Visits The North Pole At 89
You’d expect that polar exploration would be the one thing in the world that most decidedly doesn’t attract the elderly. But let’s face it, at this point, we all know what’s coming. So without further ado, here’s Barbara Smith, 89. She’s officially the oldest person to visit the North Pole.
At the same time, her 14-year-old granddaughter was trying to become the youngest Brit to ski to the North Pole. We can’t help but feel a little sorry for her, because it’s a hell of a thing to be a teenager emerging victorious from the frozen wilderness, only to find out that you got hopelessly upstaged by your grandma.
And then everyone would want to claim your grandma as theirs, because of her ass-kickery.
Mrs. Smith didn’t ski her way to the North Pole, but her means of travel was no less hardcore: She reached her destination with a combination of helicopters and a Russian nuclear icebreaker called Yamal. If you think that this made the trip any less strenuous for her, remember that the Arctic climate is harsh for anyone, and for someone pushing ninety it can be positively lethal. The oldest person to visit a Pole prior to Smith was none other than Buzz Aldrin, who was three years younger than she when he visited the South Pole, and he was nearly killed by the trip.
The older and presumably less moon-experienced Smith was A-OK with her arctic antics and had a jolly good time. The biggest issue she faced during the journey was using the legendary challenging outhouses of Ice Camp Barneo. Let’s, uh … let’s just say that Port-A-Potties in a climate where you can’t expose any skin whatsoever because of terrible physical reasons don’t exactly get any easier to use when you’re 89.
The Iron Nun: Competes In Triathlons At 88
Sister Madonna Buder’s birth name is not The Iron Nun, but it might as well be. After a short look at her accomplishments, it’s pretty much impossible to think of her as anything else.
This is because Sister Iron N- uh, Madonna Buder, is not only a Catholic nun, but also an insanely prolific athlete. She has competed in almost 400 races, and her specialty is the Ironman triathlon, a notoriously grueling combination of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle race, and a light 26.22-mile run to cool things off. Yes, that’s a marathon race they wrap things up with. It’s not known as one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in existence for nothing.
If it’s impressive to imagine a nun competing in a whole host of such events, well, you should probably know that she didn’t start running until the age of 47, after a priest recommended the sport to her. After a few years of hauling ass for up to 70 miles a week, boredom set in. That’s when after the clock had set her age to 52, she decided to expand her horizons and took up the whole triathlon thing.
Which she absolutely kills to this day.
Today, after 36 years and hundreds of races, the Sister is still competing at age 88. In October 2018, she entered the St. Anthony’s Triathlon: a .93-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run. It’s an event she’s attended every year for more than a decade.
Sister Iron Nun is almost hilariously modest about her borderline superhuman athletic abilities. She keeps calling herself “a little old lady who’s just doing her thing,” and although she realizes that very few 88-year-olds can do what she does -- hell, pretty few 22-year-olds, for that matter -- she doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it, and becomes extremely annoyed whenever she’s bombarded with praise and interview requests. Still, that’s all right. She’ll just pop off and run a few miles to cool down, instead of shame-eating a bag of Doritos and some canned cheese sauce like the rest of us.
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