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Nyad's not alone: 7 senior citizens with superhuman strength

Sep. 3, 2013 at 6:09 PM ET

Diana Nyad, 64, after completing a record-setting swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida, on September 2, 2013.
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Diana Nyad, 64, after completing a record-setting swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida, on September 2, 2013.

When Diana Nyad completed her historic swim from Cuba to Florida on Monday, her first message was that you’re never too old to chase your dreams.

"You can dream, you can be vital, and you can be in your prime even,'' Nyad told TODAY's Kerry Sanders of achieving the feat at age 64. "I may not look it right now, but you catch me on a good day, I'm in my prime." 

Nyad's achievement, swimming 110 miles in treacherous waters in just under 53 hours, made her the latest remarkable athlete to show that age is nothing but a number: 35 years after she first attempted the swim at age 29, she was still in the elite physical condition necessary to achieve her goal.

In honor of her triumph as the first person to ever swim from Cuba to Florida without using a shark cage (enduring sun, waves, seawater, illness, and jellyfish stings in the process), proving that athletes in their sixth decade can still amaze, here are seven other fitness fanatics over 60 who are in better shape than people half their age. 

Tao Porchon-Lynch, left, and Edith Wilma Connor, right, show that athletes come in all ages.
TODAY
Tao Porchon-Lynch, left, and Edith Wilma Connor, right, show that athletes come in all ages.

Tao Porchon-Lynch, 95-year-old yoga instructor

Certified by Guiness World Records as the world’s oldest yoga teacher, the New York-based Porchon-Lynch has been teaching students for 47 years.

The founder of the Westchester Institute of Yoga in New York, Porchon-Lynch keeps busy ballroom dancing in addition to her yoga practice. Her strength and stamina are that of someone less than half her age, as she still teaches yoga four days a week.

She has lived a colorful life that has included marching with Gandhi in her native India, fighting in the French Resistance in World War II, and appearing in movies like “Show Boat” in 1951.

"Tao is a living advertisement for how to tap into our human potential,'' her official bio reads. "She is unique in her ability to overcome the effects of aging to control her body and mind in harmony with yoga’s principles. Tao’s philosophy is 'There is nothing we cannot do if we harness the power within us.''' 

Fauja Singh, 102-year-old marathoner

Indian-born British national Fauja Singh was still running marathons right up until his 102nd birthday in April. He ran the Hong Kong Marathon in February at 101 years old and still runs four hours daily after retiring from marathons following the event in Hong Kong. He didn’t even start running marathons until he was 89, but has since run the London Marathon five times.

When he was 92, he set an age group record in running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in four hours and 40 minutes in 2003. In 2004, he was featured in an adidas commercial with David Beckham and Muhammad Ali, and he also was one of those selected to carry the torch leading up to the 2012 Olympics in London. He credits a good diet and daily exercise outdoors for his longevity. 

Edith Wilma Connor, 78-year-old bodybuilder

Connor (pictured above) did not enter a bodybuilding competition until she was 65 years old, but has kept going for more than a decade since. In 2012, Guinness certified her as the world's oldest competitive bodybuilder. The Denver resident competed in the NPC Armbrust Pro Gym Warrior Classic Bodybuilding Championships in Loveland, Colo., in 2011 when she was 76 years old. 

She works out three times a week and has a combined 16 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, according to Guinness. Connor is not the only female bodybuilder to compete well into her seventies, as she beat out previous record holder Ernestine Shepherd, 76, who had held the mark in 2010 and 2011. 

Morgan Shepherd in his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Todd Warshaw / Getty Images file
Morgan Shepherd in his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Morgan Shepherd, 71-year-old NASCAR driver

On July 13 at New Hampshire Speedway, Shepherd made history by becoming the oldest racecar driver to compete in a NASCAR Sprint Cup event, the highest level of stock car racing. Now in his seventh decade, Shepherd is a regular competitor on the Nationwide Series, one rung below the Sprint Cup series, whose average driver is less than half his age. 

Last year at age 70, he became the oldest driver to lead a Nationwide Series race, when he led three laps at a race at Richmond International Raceway. Shepherd has been competing at varying levels of NASCAR for more than 40 years. 

Lew Hollander, 82-year-old triathlete

In October of 2012, Hollander became the oldest person to complete the grueling Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, at 81 years old. 

He finished the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in a total time of 16 hours, 45 minutes and 52 seconds to finish third in his own age group. Two other younger men in their 80s, Japan's Hiromu Inada and Lyle Roberts of the U.S., finished ahead of him, showing that he's not alone when it comes to staying in peak shape late into life. 

Hiroshi Hoketsu, 71-year-old Olympian

Hoketsu competed in his first Olympics back in 1964 in Tokyo and was the oldest competitor of all the athletes at the 2012 Olympics in London. Riding aboard his horse Whisper, the dressage competitor from Japan took 17th out of 24 in the competition. 

"Probably the biggest motivation for me [is to] feel I'm improving," he told The Guardian. "I think if I feel, 'OK, I'm getting worse than before,' I will stop."

The oldest Olympian in history was Swedish athlete Oscar Swahn, who was 72 when he won a silver medal as part of the double-shot running deer team in the 1920 Antwerp Games. 

Olga Kotelko, 94-year-old track star

The nonagenarian from Canada holds every world record in track and field for her age group, 23 in all, from long jump to high jump to shot put to javelin to sprints. 

She has outperformed her fellow competitors by such great margins that she has experts testing previous theories about aging. Her muscle tissue has been studied by doctors at the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University's Montreal Chest Institute, according to The New York Times. 


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