July 15, 2023 3 min read 3 Comments
That's a whole lot of pride showing here in this picture. Linda Douglass won a gold medal at the World Championships in 2011. Read about her comeback. She won a bronze in the 75-79 high jump here Thursday at The National Senior Games. Photo by Jessie Bond.
*You should read this story about a women with 9 heart stents.
*And a rebuilt hip.
*Picture at the end of story.
By Ray Glier
PITTSBURGH___Once upon a time, Linda Douglass was an American record holder and world gold medal winner in the high jump. She was 66 years old and at the top of her game in Masters track in 2011.
Then came the disruptions of age. Six years ago, at 72 years old, Linda had a heart attack, which required nine stents to get the blood flowing. Then came the fall and hip injury that required a steel rod for a fix. Before that was a “trapped nerve” in her left leg.
Linda is 78. She wouldn’t quit Masters track despite the infirmities. She refused to be permanently estranged from a sport that gave her so much joy as a child when she laid a mop handle over two sawhorses and high jumped because there were no sports for girls.
Linda came all the way here to the National Senior Games from Richmond, Texas for one event, the high jump. That’s it.
This issue of Geezer Jock from The National Senior Games has to be about the adjustments people make to play games as they age.
She got a bronze medal Thursday among the five women who competed in the 75-78 age bracket. Once a Masters high jumper over four feet, she didn’t know if she could even get to three feet here.
She went 3 feet, 2 inches.
“I’m overjoyed,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I just wanted to be back in the game.”
Instead of looking at her damaged heart and torpedoed hip as a profound menace to having fun again in the high jump, Linda stayed “patient” and refused to feel rickety. She worked out at the University of Houston and was determined to “start from scratch again” and feel the energy of the sport.
“I jump off my right foot, so that was good it was my left hip,” Linda said. “If I had injured my right hip I would have learned to jump off my left foot. I would have done whatever it takes to keep competing.”
Douglass still has the wherewithal to get her steps down as she approaches the bar. She stopped one jump as she came to the bar for an attempt because she knew she had a choppy approach. She went back to the mark, tried again, and cleared 3 feet.
Linda still has the reedy figure of a high jumper from the waist up. And she has strong legs, thick legs, jumpers legs. The heart and hip surgery didn’t rob her of those.
Douglass also still has a methodical approach to the bar not the ‘oh well, I’m older now’, which means lack of discipline. She missed one jump and came back to her seat under the tent tapping each side of her head with a forefinger as if to get right mentally right for the next jump.
The vim, sure enough, is still there.
“I think being here with these other women and the competition just helped me so much,” Douglass said. “There’s an excitement being here.”
Douglass did not have the benefit of Title IX and opportunities for girls in athletics in the 50s and 60s. These women are not going to give up sports so easily now when they were so hard to break into when they were younger. They won’t be pushed out after pushing so hard to get in.
Linda was a school teacher in Texas. She once heard a school board honcho declare there would be no girls basketball at his school because it was not “lady-like.” This was in the early 1970s.
Douglass was not paying attention to that screed. She has done un-lady like things most of here life, like run the Houston Marathon. As a kid, neighbors would see her sprinting down the street and wonder why she was in such a hurry. She said, “I was just running.”
Linda attended Sam Houston State and a month before graduating in 1966, the school decided to start a track team. She was disappointed to say the least.
You get it now? Trapped nerve. Heart attack. Broken hip. Something so hard to break into is some times just so hard to break up with.
Linda high-jumping at the 2011 World Masters Games.
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