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Cyclist aged 104-years-old is recognized as the world’s greatest centenarian athlete

Frenchman Robert Marchant holds the hour record in his age group with a distance of 26.93-km covered


After analyzing the performances of the world’s oldest record-breakers, Romuald Lepers of the University of Burgundy, Dijon, and his colleagues have named a cyclist as the champion . The study analyzed the performances of centenarian athlete record holders comparing their performances to those of the world record holders in swimming, running, and athletic disciplines such as high jump, shot put and running. It was 104-year-old cyclist Frenchman Robert Marchant who appeared to have the best performance compared to the other centenarian age-group record holders.

Marchant set the hour record in the over-100 age group in January 2014 with a distance of 26.93-km covered. Compared to Bradley Wiggins’s 54.53 km record, that only represents a 50.6 per cent decline in performance. The performances of the centenarian athletes in the study were considered as an average of the respective speeds the performances were achieved except for jumping and throwing events which it was the maximum distances performed which were considered. The performance of the centenarian athletes were expressed as a percentage of the world record for that discipline to determine whose performance was comparatively the best.

Comparatively, 104-year-old Donald Pellman set a time of 26.99 seconds in the 100m in 2015, a 64.5 per cent decrease in performance compared to Bolt’s 9.58-second mark.

Out of all the centenarian athletes whose performances were analyzed by the researchers, Marchant was deemed to have declined much more slowly by the researchers. The researchers said that he compared extremely favourably to other people his age because of his exceptional muscular and cardiorespiratory function. For the past 60-years, Marchant’s age-related decline has been 8 per cent or less per decade based on his performance.

However, the researchers recognized that athletic decline does depend on the sport with Lepers saying, “Our study shows that in some disciplines the decline is less pronounced,” he says. Sports such as running and swimming performances tend to decrease quite quickly whereas throwing and cycling abilities tend to decline over a longer period of time.  However, the researchers observations give new perspective on how the human body can resist the effects of ageing

Lepers and his team have not yet identified any supercentenarian athletes but he says that may change, “Given the increased number of centenarians worldwide, it is very likely that the number of centenarian athletes will increase in the coming years.”

Though not a centenarian, Canadian Ed Whitlock holds numerous age group running world records including being the only person over the age of 70 to run a sub-three hour marathon. Lepers says that these exceptional individuals are a good example to follow and show that it is never too late to get active.