50+ Superstars in the News

October 27, 2011

Recently, there have been many 50+ superstars in the news, including professional athlete Billie Jean King, marathon-runner Drew Carey, inspiring overcomer Sensei Keiko Fukuda, and record-setting Fauja Singh.

Billie Jean King Renewing her Rivalry with Arthritis

Billie Jean King. Photo by David Shankbone

The Arthritis Foundation has introduced a new campaign that urges people to take up exercise as a weapon against pain. The campaign is intended to “be more empowering and more action-oriented,” according to Peggy Conlon, president of the Ad Council. Numerous ads introduced in 2010 feature people of different ages and shapes dancing, and advises, “Moving is the best medicine.”

A new ad from August features tennis pro Billie Jean King, age 67, “renewing her rivalry with arthritis.” She testifies, “tennis is a weapon for me, with arthritis. There’s nothing like it for me, to hit a ball, run to the ball. Any time, any court, I’m ready, let’s go.” The ad asks, “what’s your weapon against arthritis?,” and advises viewers to “find out at FightArthritisPain.org.”

Arthritis is a topic close to King; the twelve-time Grand Slam singles winner and co-founder of World Team Tennis has had osteoarthritis since she was in her twenties, and had both knees replaced in 2010. King says she has “overcome arthritis.”

Drew Carey: Marathon-Runner

The 53-year-old host of The Price is Right is looking a lot leaner these days, and it’s no coincidence. Drew Carey is a runner. Between November 2009 and January of this year, Carey had lost 82 pounds, and also no longer displays symptoms of diabetes.

Drew Carey in 2008. Photo by Cyan Banister

When Carey first began to lose weight in 2009, he exercised on the elliptical, because his trainers were worried about his knees. He continued to use the elliptical until the end of 2010, running only once in a while. It was when he created a running goal that he made running “his” thing.

Carey says he is “very businesslike” about his runs; he is “not out to run to enjoy the scenery,” but mainly he opts for the treadmill. Carey runs primarily for its health benefits: he starts to run “with a goal in mind, whether it’s a certain time or certain distance or a specific heart-rate goal,” and then stops once he has reached that goal.

Carey’s motivation to lose weight was not only concern for his physical appearance, but also concern for his life. Heart disease runs in his family, and in July 2009, his brother Neal died of a heart attack at age 64. Carey says he doesn’t “want to live with weight in [his] head,” but “just want[s] to live healthy.”

Carey says that as his aerobic condition gets better, his resting heart rate gets lower. Whereas his resting heart rate used to be 65, it is now between 40 and 45. On May 15, Carey ran the Marine Corps Half Marathon, and finished in the top twenty-five percent, at 1 hour, 57 minutes. Carey says that having “these kinds of goals and races to do” is one way to maintain his weight loss.

Carey has no plans to slow down; Carey was inspired by a 60-year-old man who finished the half marathon in 1 hour, 32 minutes, and thought, “that’s what I want to do when I’m 60.”

Sensei Keiko Fukuda: Against the Odds

When you think of a black-belt judo master, whom do you picture? Keiko Fukuda is 98 years old, 4 feet 10 and a mere 100 pounds, yet she is a giant in the world of judo.

She not only defies misconceptions of age and physical limits, but she has also become the first woman ever to receive a tenth-degree black belt, judo’s highest rank. Only sixteen people have earned their tenth-degree black belt, and she is only one of four living people to have achieved this honour.

Fukuda’s grandfather, Hachinosuke Fukuda, was one of Japan’s last eminent samurai. He taught jiu jutsu to Jigoro Kano, who invented Japanese judo in 1882. Fukuda is Kano’s only living student.

Eiko Saito-Shepherd, a Fukuda disciple, said that when Fukuda expressed an interest in judo, in her twenties, “Dr. Kano himself invited her to come in to the women’s section of the Kodokan,” the institute for teaching judo masters. Fukudo described the Kodokan, as “old-fashioned and sexist about belts and ranks.” Fukuda was kept at the level of a fifth-degree black belt for thirty years because of an edict that prevented women from achieving any higher level. She was finally elevated to the sixth level in 1972, when a woman’s division was created.

Despite having come from a martial arts tradition, her current status in the martial arts world is untraditional in many ways. Fukudo was 21 when she began her training, and her family was planning to marry her to a dentist, who told her she would have to give up judo. Fukudo bucked tradition, opting out of marriage to pursue the martial art. “All I did was Judo…this was my marriage,” Fukudo reflected tearfully when she received her belt.

Shelley Fernandez, Fukuda’s housemate of the last 45 years, said that when Fukuda received news of the award, “she was very happy because this would help women, and then finally, she thought it was a dream come true.”

Although she sometimes uses a wheelchair, Fukuda teaches judo classes three times a week to women and girls in San Francisco. Fukuda told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I think a lot of why I am 98 has to do with judo. […] As far as I know, no one has lived their life completely for judo as I have.”

A documentary capturing Fukuda’s story of enduring war and discrimination, as well as her devotion to judo is slated for an early 2012 release.

Fauja Singh: 100-year-old Marathoner Sets Record

On October 16, 100-year-old Fauja Singh competed for a spot in the Guinness World Records for becoming the oldest person to complete a full-distance marathon. For more than eight hours, Singh participated in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Singh has dedicated himself to running for twenty years; after the death of his wife and son, Singh turned his attention to running as a means of focusing on something positive. He competed in his first marathon at age 89, and has since garnered many achievements. He has run in the London Marathon five times, appeared alongside Muhhamad Ali and David Beckham in Adidas’ Impossible is Nothing campaign, and carried the torch during the relay for the 2004 Athens Games.

“The fact that others benefit” from something he likes to do motivates Singh, whether that means raising “sponsorship for charities or simply motivating people to become healthier.” For example, the entire amount of his Adidas sponsorship went directly to charity.

Singh has no plans to slow down; he declares, “I will carry on running as it is keeping me alive.” You can see Singh cross the finish line in a video by The Canadian Press.

The Guinness Book of World Records hasn’t verified his record-breaking attempt as he doesn’t have a valid birth certificate from 1911 because they were not available in India at the time. For now, the official record remains with Dimitrion Yordanidis who completed a marathon in Athens in 1976 at age 98.


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