The Pole-Vaulting Great-Grandmother

Fitness, Motivation, Senior Health
on July 17, 2013

Name: Flo Meiler
Age: 79
Event(s): Track & Field; Tennis Mixed-Doubles

If you think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, you’ve never met pole-vaulting champion Flo Meiler. The 79-year-old great-grandmother from Shelburne, Vt., took up pole-vaulting at age 65—adding to a repertoire that already included running hurdles, hammer throw, high jump and javelin—and has since snatched more than 750 medals, 80 trophies and 150 ribbons at various competitions nationwide.

“For me, track and field is just like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. I wouldn’t be happy without it. It’s my life—I just love it,” says Flo, who trains for two hours a day, five to six days a week.

Most people balk at the idea of pole-vaulting; after all, to willingly launch oneself into the air demands a daring recklessness few athletes possess. But Flo was intrigued by the challenge. “I thought it was something I could accomplish with a lot of training. I’m fearless,” she says.

Some might call her brazen, others might call her crazy. Either way, Flo’s passion, courage and determination serve as an inspiration to all. This July, Flo is traveling to Cleveland for the 2013 National Senior Games, where she will compete in a total of nine track and field events—100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, hammer throw, high jump, javelin, long jump, pole vault, shot put and triple jump—in addition to mixed doubles tennis with her husband, Gene. “In years’ past I’ve been running from one end of the track to the other just to get all of the events in,” she says with a laugh.

A 12-year veteran of the Games, Flo hopes to break her 2011 record of three gold medals, one silver and one bronze . But most of all, she is excited about the opportunity to inspire others. Because of her commitment to promoting senior health and wellness, Flo is being recognized at this year’s Games as a 2013 Humana Game Changer.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to be a Humana Game Changer,” Flo says. “I hope to inspire others to not let age get in the way of fitness and wellbeing, and I also hope to encourage others to try sports. My motto is, ‘It’s never too late.’”