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The Decathlon at 89. Flo Did It And It's Historic.

August 19, 2023 2 min read 5 Comments

The Decathlon at 89. Flo Did It And It's Historic.

Even with a wrapped left hamstring, Flo Meiler completed 10 events in two days. Photo by Rob Jerome.

By Ray Glier

This is how you mold the future, change course, and get people to sit up to the edge of their seats. Somebody like Flo Meiler comes along and she does something out of the ordinary, like the Decathlon. At 89.

Meiler, who is from Shelburne, Vermont, went to the USA Track & Field Masters Outdoors Combined Events National Championships last weekend in Walnut, Ca., and became the oldest American woman to do the Decathlon in a sanctioned meet. Over two days, Flo competed in the 100-meter, 400-meter and 1,500-meter runs, high hurdles, the long jump, high jump, pole vault, discus throw, shot-put and javelin throw.

“I’m exhausted,” Flo said three days after the event. “It was fun. I’ll do it again.”

Flo is not just any pioneer. She has a slew of international and national championships in Masters track and field. What was significant for her Decathlon effort was there is a push to allow women to do the Decathlon in the Olympics.

If an 89-year old woman can do the track’s most difficult event does that erase another bromide about women and sport?

“I hope it changes course,” Meiler said. She said two Masters veterans, Mary Trotto and Daphne Scott, and herself, talked at length with people at the event about becoming part of the petitioning process to include women’s Decathlon at a future Olympics.

The International Association of Athletics Federations and U.S.A. Track & Field have already approved women for the Decathlon. It’s not like women have not done the 10 events in two days, they have, for decades, but the International Olympic Committee would have to approve it for the world's biggest stage.

Flo said the 1500 on the second day was the heavy lift. But where the typical women’s multi-event, the Heptathlon, is built for speed, the Decathlon is built for endurance and Flo needed every bit of hers.

Flo was built to have fun, perhaps that is why she makes a perfect ambassador for women and the Decathlon.

“It attracted all sorts of attention and young women were asking me to sign their poles (vaults) and programs,” Flo said. “It was good for the sport and it certainly gave me some energy for people to be rooting for me.”

What helped her, Meiler said, was the facilities at Mount San Antonio College. “They were amazing,” she said. “It is a much better experience when you have a facility like that.”

Flo said she was hesitant to do the Decathlon, but Scott, who is ranked No. 1 in the world in the Decathlon and Pentathlon (W60-64), said to her in 2022, “You do a lot a lot of events anyway. Why don't you do the decathlon?,” Flo said.

“I had never thought about it before. After thinking and thinking, why wouldn't I be able to do this? Right. That's why I signed up.”

Flo said she considered the Decathlon “way beyond her ability.”

It wasn’t and that’s a good lesson for all of us.


5 Responses

Barbara Wintroub
Barbara Wintroub

August 20, 2023

Reading about all these wonderful senior athletes brings a smile to my heart. You honor each and every one and show anything is possible.

Ray Glier
Ray Glier

August 20, 2023

Good catch, Peter. You and Ken Stone pointed out the blunder…100 meter hurdles not 110. Fixed! Thank you.

Peter Taylor
Peter Taylor

August 19, 2023

Very nice article, Ray, about some wonderful competitors. Flo, Mary, and Daphne have been “doing it up” for many years. I agree that Mt. SAC is a fine facility. My only question is whether Flo ran the 110-meter hurdles. Did she not run some shorter distance in the hurdles?

Florence L Meiler
Florence L Meiler

August 19, 2023

You did a great job Ray. Your PR helps all of us athletes. Thanks, Flo Meiler

Daphne Scott
Daphne Scott

August 19, 2023

Awesome performance Flo – it was an honor to compete alongside you as we all navigated the rigors of the Decathlon. As anyone who has ever done one knows, it is far more than “just the sum of 10 events”. Decathletes have to harness their minds, emotions, bodies, and spirits to navigate two days of cycling through the phases of competition, multiple times, each day……and you did that in awesome style, with a sunny smile and great support for your fellow athletes!!!

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