A 100-year-old woman from Cleveland, Ohio, has shown the world that age really is just a number. Diane Friedman broke three masters sports records at the Michigan Senior Olympics on Aug.15 and is officially the fastest woman in the world over 100 years old. Friedman broke world records in both the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash for the 100-104-year-old age group. She also broke the American record for the javelin in the same age category.
In the 100-meter dash, Diane Friedman ran in 36.71 seconds, breaking the prior mark set by Julia Hawkins by nearly 3 seconds.
To claim the world record in the 200-meter dash, Friedman came in at 1:29:78. Her javelin throw measured 6.25 meters.
Diane Friedman — no stranger to success
Friedman has been a household name in the world of masters sports for years. She was an avid competitor in the global track-and-field circuits in her 70s, and she set several world records in her 90s. She is a two-time USA Track & Field masters age group Athlete of the Year. She has made two appearances in “Sports Illustrated.”
The person who is the least surprised by her latest record-breaking performance is Friedman.
“I’ve won a lot of medals. I’ve won a lot. I’m just so accustomed to it,” Friedman told Growing Bolder. “When I’m running, I don’t think of anything except keep my eyes forward and move.”
For years, Friedman has worked out with exercise physiologist Dr. Bruce Sherman, a trainer who was a former nationally ranked triathlete. Sherman says that even at 100 years old, what sets Friedman apart is her competitive spirit.
“Diane is a coach’s dream,” Sherman explained. “When the gun goes off, she has this thing where she is the ultimate competitor. Her body knows that when the gun goes off, that means race.”
Friedman’s accomplishments have even earned her a nickname with the National Senior Games Association. Del Moon, the NSGA’s Communications and Media Director, affectionately calls the track star Diane “Flash” Friedman, a nod to her new, record-setting pace.
A friendly rivalry
As part of Growing Bolder’s conversation on these new world records with Friedman, the previous record holder, Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins, joined in to offer her congratulations.
“I’m happy for her,” Hawkins said. “The one thing about her and me, I’ve never had a coach, and I’ve never been trained. I just got out there and ran. If I had been trained, well, I didn’t want to do it that way. I just liked to run on my own and do what I could do.”
When asked who they thought would win in a race if they got together, these two legends had fun stoking the flames of their competitive fires.
“I think she would win,” Hawkins said.
“No, no, no, no!” Friedman responded. “That’s why we should meet. Because we’re going to be competitive. I’m going to beat the devil out of you!”
“There’s something about wanting to win that gets in your blood. I want to be ahead,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins won’t have to wait long for another chance at glory in the track-and-field 100-plus age group. She plans on competing in the Senior Games in her home state, Louisiana, this November, where she plans on becoming the first 105-year-old woman to run the 100-meter dash and add a new record to her name.
Learning from legends
The impact of these two Senior Games stars goes beyond the times recorded as they cross the finish line. They hope their bigger lesson is just the fact that they made their way down the track at all.
“Keep running, keep being active,” Hawkins urged. “Try to get more people that you know to get active, that’s important.”
“Come walk with me. This is good exercise,” Friedman tells her friends. “They’ll say to me ‘Oh, but I get so tired.’ Well, then, get tired. You’ll only get tired once, and then the second time you’ll feel even better. Don’t say you can’t. Do whatever you can.”
It’s a message that the National Senior Games Association has been preaching for years. NSGA’s Moon says their focus has been to help more older adults stay healthy, get physically fit, and have fun.
“We hope that people look at it and not just say, ‘Oh, isn’t it great what she’s doing at 100 years old?’ We want people to internalize that and say ‘Hey, if I take care of myself a little bit better, maybe I can do something,’ Moon explained. “And that’s always been our message. Just find something you love to do and keep doing it to keep yourself going, and you might be surprised by what you can accomplish.”
There will be more inspiration on the way, with the 2022 National Senior Games scheduled to take place from May 10-23, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale. Thousands of athletes 50 years and older, including those past 100, will gather to compete, set new records, form new friendships, and continue inspiring older adults to stay active and to pursue their passions.
For more information on the National Senior Games, visit to GrowingBolder.com/NSGA