August 19, 2023 2 min read 5 Comments
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.
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