At an age where people lose all hope of living and are confined to one corner of the bed due to illness, Mann Kaur, 103, is winning medals in running in different events across the world
Mann Kaur of Punjab recently won a gold medal at the World Masters Games in Malaga, Spain where she clocked a 200m race in 3.14 minutes, in addition to clinching gold in the javelin throw event. Kaur is 103 years old.
Born to a traditional Punjabi family in Patiala in 1915, Kaur was always fit and fine. “She was pretty interested in sports and running and always encouraged us to play”, says Gurdev Singh, her 79-year-old son. Gurdev is also a master athlete, and he has been participating for the last few years in various Masters events, meant for people above the age of 35 till over a 100 years old.
“When I went to various international events, I saw so many people above the age of 85-90, participating in those events, and that is when it struck my mind that my mother can also participate in these events. I then insisted she practise with me”, says Gurdev.
“My son came to me and insisted me to practice with him about 10 years ago, and I obliged him. At first, I did 100m sprints, and then it increased to 200m and then 400m”, says Kaur. At the age of 93, she participated in her first professional 100m race in which she clocked a time of 1.39 minutes. “In the next 10 years, I participated in different events around the world”, says Kaur.
After a lot of races in the country and around the world, the defining moment for Kaur came at the age of 100 years. At the America Masters, she ran a 100m race in 1.21 minutes, thus creating a new world record, and creating headlines in all leading sports dailies of the US. But Kaur, did not plan on stopping there.
At the 2017 World Masters Games, an event which is considered the Olympics for the elderly, held in Auckland, New Zealand, Kaur again smashed her own record by seven seconds, completing the race in 1.14 seconds, just 64 seconds behind Usain Bolt’s world record. She even won medals at the 200m, 400m and even at the javelin throw event. In fact, she clinched gold at the javelin throw event, with a distance of over 17 feet, something very astonishing for a lady of her age. Over the years, she has won over 30 international medals in different events across the world
“Internationally people love me so much. Wherever I go people greet me, and all big dignitaries invite me to their place for dinner”, she says. “She even earned the title, ‘Wonder of Chandigarh’ from the New Zealand media after her astonishing performance there”, says Gurdev, who shifted to Chandigarh with his mother for better training facilities.
But life was not always this happy for Kaur. Her husband, an army doctor, passed away at a very young age, and she started working in the house of the King of Patiala to earn her daily bread. “I used to take care of the queen and the children, and later was also appointed as a cook of the royal family. I used to cook meals for more than 100 people”, says Kaur, who claims that she used to make more than 500 rotis a day.
Though Kaur has always been fit throughout her life, her son Gurdev says that a full body X-ray, before she started playing, revealed that her bones have become extremely hollow due to osteoporosis, and she has a bent spinal cord. “It was her sheer determination and willpower, that made her continue this sport”. Gurdev says that she has never had any major ailment in her life, and she hardly visits the doctor. Kaur herself never fears getting injured. “If I fear breaking my bones, then I will lose all enthusiasm for running”, she adds. She has never been injured, not once, in her entire sports career.
At an age where people are restricted to their beds and can’t move without the support of a walking stick, what makes Kaur so fit and motivated? “Every day, I go to the gym and do treadmill sessions and weight training excercises”, she says, adding that she walks 25 km every day in addition to practising 100m, 200m and 400m sprints. But according to Kaur, the secret behind her fitness lies in her diet. “I regularly eat fruits and vegetables in a decent quantity. Every morning I have a glass of kefir (fermented milk), and I eat rotis made of sprouted wheat. Also, the milk I have is not bought from outside”, says Kaur. Surprisingly, Kaur has never even tasted outside food ever in her life, not even sweets. “Even when I go abroad, I buy all my vegetables and flour and cook my own meal. I never have any food from outside”, she adds.
An inspiration for so many people, Kaur herself gets inspired by the old athletes she meets at different Masters athletics meets around the world. “My greatest inspiration however, comes from God. I believe, it is because he gives me strength that I have been able to achieve so much in my life”
For Kaur, running is not a tedious task. “Every sprint, every run keeps my mind fresh, and I feel extremely happy each time I complete a race. The satisfaction I get is unparalleled, and I will run till the day I breathe my last,” says Kaur, who is a goodwill ambassador for Milind Soman’s Pinkathon, an organisation that promotes women’s fitness through marathons.
Apart from running, Kaur also wishes to do something for the youth of Punjab, especially those who have been caught in the web of the state’s humongous drug addiction problem. “Almost on a daily basis, I see people dying so prematurely, as young as 20, due to drugs”, she says. “I want to raise awareness against this problem, and promote a healthy lifestyle among the youth, so that they can live long like me”, she concludes.