Their hair is gray, their skin is wrinkled and they’re unlikely to defy the law of gravity for more than a moment at a time. But photographer David Burnett, who has covered 12 Olympic Games, considers them the most inspiring subjects he’s captured. “They’re in it to prove something to themselves,” says Burnett, who crisscrossed the country the past two years to document senior athletes from an array of sports. “But they’re really proving something to all of us. You can throw the hammer when you’re a grandma, play ice hockey when you’re 95, run the 100 meters when you’re 103.”
Burnett’s “Fourth Quarter” project — currently on display at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida — features 40 images of geriatric athletes redefining old age. “My new friends have reminded me of how much life has to offer,” Burnett says. “I’m 72, and I can’t wait to tie on my old skates.” Burnett will next turn his lens toward the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from June 14 to 25. That’s where 103-year-old sprinter Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins will be one of 10,000 athletes competing in 20 sports. Although as Burnett notes, in the race against time, they’re all winners. –STEVE WULF
Sharon Huczek (No. 223), 70 — competing here in one of the three 70-and-over events she won at the 2018 Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah — takes a race walk on the wild side.
The surf’s up off Santa Cruz, California, and so are Howard “Boots” McGhee (left), 71, and Greg Brougham, 68, who much prefer paddle boards to rocking chairs.
Howard Major is a 68-year-old minister who usually delivers sermons, but here he is at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, delivering jabs to the heavy bag.
The Gray Wolves — a senior hockey team that skates out of the YMCA in Skaneateles, New York — has found a frozen fountain of youth. The grayest Wolf, center Marsh Webster (wearing the Chiefs sweater), is 95 — or 25 years older than the Zamboni. “You should’ve seen Marsh when he was 80,” one teammate says. “He could fly.”
The 70-to-74-year-old division of a 2017 Birmingham women’s basketball tourney featured stifling defense, steady ballhandling and not a single technical foul for jawing at the refs.
At a certain age, you’re told to stay within your lane, but this 200-meter sprinter at the New Jersey Senior Olympics defies his place in society, not to mention time.
Skateboarding legend Mark Lake, 61, began his pro career at 19. Here, he takes one of his patented “Nightmare” boards for a spin at the Ramp48 Skateboard Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (There’s another one in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.)
Master stroke: A swimmer in the deep end of the longevity pool comes up for air during the 2017 Senior Games.
Tricks aren’t just for kids. One regular who gets her kickflips among the high-flying teenagers at a skateboard park in Santa Cruz, California, is 59-year-old SK8QUEEN Judi Oyama.
You play to 25 points in volleyball. But, as this determined server at the Huntsman Games proves, you can play the sport pretty much forever.
Winning hands: Imagine how many shots, passes and blocks that these mitts, which belong to one of the basketball players at the 2017 Senior Games, have made.
Pickleball isn’t tennis, and the National Senior Games aren’t Wimbledon, but the 70-and-over mixed doubles competition in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2017 was every bit as fierce as a grand slam match.
The old man in the sea is swimming what denizens of the deep call a “cove,” a one-mile loop around San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop.
Forget Minnesota Fats. This is Jersey Jo, aka 91-year-old Josephine Monteleone, who sank her billiards rivals at the 2018 New Jersey Senior Games in Woodbridge.
This competitor at the USA Powerlifting Senior Championshps in Lakeland, Florida, in February proved one thing: that LOVE is strong.
That’s 80-year-old Arturo Melean getting the hang of hang gliding at Levin Park in the foothills of Milpitas, California. Originally from Bolivia, Melean has been an instructor for the Mission Soaring Center since 1995.