10 may 2017
Göran R Buckhorn writes:
Dr Charles Eugster, the world’s oldest competitive rower, died on 26 April after suffering heart failure. He was 97.
It is never, never too late to start exercising and rowing even as a competitor. Eugster, who was born on 26 July 1919, restarted a career in rowing at age 63, took up body building at 87 and sprinting at 95. When he died, he had the British records for 60m Indoor, 100m outdoor, 200m Outdoor and Long Jump and was a two-time World Record holder for his age group in sprinting and four-time World Fitness Champion. During his career as a master rower, Eugster won an incredible 40 Gold Medals for World Masters Rowing.
At the age of 82, he was elected to Leander Club for services to rowing. Jeremy Randall, president of Leander, told the Henley Standard in an article earlier in May: ‘Charles represented the very best that can be achieved at an age where most people would be looking to take a well-earned rest. He rowed competitively at every stage of his long life, starting at St Paul’s School, for whom he raced at Henley in the Ladies’ Plate in 1938. He then went on to represent Thames Rowing Club in the Grand and the Wyfold before pursuing his career as a dentist.’
After his studies at a university in London, he joined the Swiss Army – his parents were Swiss-German – but then spent his whole working life as a dentist. Building his dental practice and raising a family, there was less time to exercise. But then something happened when he was 63.
‘One morning, I looked in the mirror and realised I’d become a balding, self-satisfied lump of lard. It had crept up on me so slowly, I hadn’t realised it was happening,’ Eugster told a reporter from the Daily Telegraph in January this year. ‘It was a shock as I’d always been healthy.’
He added: ‘That day, after looking in the mirror, I decided to start rowing again. I began to take part in competitions for people in my age group, training six mornings a week – usually at 7 a.m. as I’d see my first patient at 8.30. I plodded along quite happily with this routine, even after retiring at 75.’ When Eugster retired from his dental practise, he moved to Switzerland.
After being physically active again at a high age, Eugster went on a mission to change the way society thinks about growing old. He became a public speaker and fitness blogger. Earlier in January, he published the book Age is Just a Number: What a 97 year old record breaker can teach us about growing old. Read more about his book on his website, here.
In interviews and speeches, Eugster confessed that to stay fit and be in shape a certain vanity always helps. At 90, he still wanted a beach body to ‘turn the heads of the 70-year-old girls on the beach’.
The following video, which has been viewed more than 600,000 times on YouTube, shows an aspiring talk that Charles Eugster, witty as ever, held at an TEDxZurich event in Switzerland.
So, ‘old age’ is no longer an excuse to not exercise. Personally, I need to get in better shape. The way I look now, not even ‘70-year-old girls’ will turn their heads on the beach. I think that Charles Eugster has showed me the way.