Athlete still competing at 73
Manawa man in World Senior Olympics
By Jane Myhra
Duncan Beck is not ready to give up his quest for track medals.
At age 73, the Manawa athlete recently competed in the track and field division of the 2015 World Senior Olympics in St. George, Utah.
“It was exciting to compete against the best of the best,” Beck said. “I was invited because I had enough medals.”
To qualify, he needed to place in the top three at several state and regional competitions in 2014. Year-end points are calculated each June for the world finals, held semi-annually.
Beck’s favorite event is the high jump, where each competitor is allowed three chances. He has twice been named Wisconsin’s high jump champion in the age 70-74 category.
He also competes in the triple jump, standing jump, running long jump and various other events.
At the World Games, he placed third in the triple jump; fifth in the standing jump and running long jump; and sixth in the high jump.
Placing third in the triple jump surprised Beck.
“The triple jump is the hardest thing,” he said. “You gotta hop, step and then make a big jump.”
He also competed in the 2015 Nationals in St. Paul, Minn., where he placed fifth in the high jump and in the triple jump.
Beck’s biggest thrills include jumping with world champions and meeting a 100-year-old competitor in the long jump.
His favorite part about attending track and field events is meeting the other competitors.
“You meet the same people a lot,” said his wife, Bernice, who always travels with him, serving as his coach and his cheering section.
“There’s so much entertainment,” Beck said. “You meet a lot of interesting people.”
He especially enjoys hearing what the other competitors say to each other. Some of his favorite quotes include:
“Don’t tell my doctor I’m out here.”
“I’ll see you next year.”
“Do you think they’ll let me run if my pacemaker is showing?”
The Senior Olympics offer a variety of sports, including swimming, badminton and pickle ball, which is very popular in the South.
“The purpose of the Senior Olympics is to keep senior citizens active, physically fit and happy,” Bernice said.
All ages compete together, but placings are calculated by age group.
“You never get a big head in this sport because you get a few firsts and then you get beat by an 84-year-old,” Beck said.
Now that he is semi-retired from building and remodeling, Beck has competed in track and field events in 17 states.
“My goal is to (compete) in all 50 states, but I can’t because they don’t all have competitions,” he said. “In Alaska, I had to teach the others how to jump because they were ‘off the street,”
Wherever and whenever he competes, Beck will be ready. His family helped him construct a training high jump in his backyard. He practices often, trying to perfect his jumping and landing.
Beck recalled landing on three layers of mattresses in high school.
“I used to do the western roll, putting my hand out to break the fall,” he said. “If you survived the landing, you jumped again.”
He has needed to modify his landing style for the modern jumps. He now does what is termed as the scissors.
“The kids have got a lot better equipment today than we ever had,” Beck said. “If they did the flop on sawdust or sand, they would break their neck.”