Ninety-one-year-old Collie Lovell has been participating in the National Senior Games from its inception 11 years ago, and has no plans of stopping any time soon.
The sprightly and feisty Ms Lovell explained: “People always ask me, ‘Miss Lovell, when you gonna stop, when you gonna slow down?’, but I say, I will stop when the Lord tells me to stop; so I continue!”
Her decision to enter the National Senior Games in 2002 was influenced by Hamilton Lashley, the coordinator of the National Assistance Board Senior Citizens Drama Group, of which she was a member.
That year, she competed in the 50 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres, which she recalled as “a lovely experience”.
“The Lord helped me, and gave me little strength . . . . When I got to the end, everybody was shouting, ‘Look at the old lady, she come first’, and I felt like I would have gone to heaven!”
Ms Lovell, who was 79 years of age at the time, continued: “I was the oldest there; so everyone just hovered around. They enjoyed me and I enjoyed them as well!”
Although she is very active and bubbly for her age, Ms Lovell experienced a mild stroke at the age of 83. However, it did not dampen her spirits.
“I was with Morning Glory [a community group] and I was asked to speak, but when I got up my left foot wouldn’t move. I had to sit back down; but I tried to hop and go up, so I could still do the talk,” she recalled.
However, it was only when she made a visit to the doctor’s, she was informed of the stroke and sent to the hospital.
Nevertheless, she pointed out that participating in the Senior Games had continued to improve her health, and the following year she returned and placed first once again.
The senior citizen, who has accumulated 19 medals so far in her ten years of participation, revealed that she did not follow a particular diet or exercise regime, exclaiming: “All I need is God!”
With regard to her diet, she quipped: “I eat everything from yam, to potato, fowl foot and fowl head –– even goat belly. I don’t eat anything different from what I am accustomed to. Eating and praying all the time works for me.”
Although she no longer trains to prepare for the Senior Games, a few years prior, she was trained by her now deceased cousin-in-law Anthony “Coach” Lovell from the Freedom Striders Track And Field Club.
Though some people have mixed views of the Senior Games, Ms Lovell believes they “give you good health, more strength, and help you all around”. She stated that the seniors who did not participate were losing out, and should “get up and run around, walk around, and talk with people!”.
Admitting that “loving people” is the secret to her longevity, Ms Lovell is considered a crowd favourite at the games because of her playful antics and performances while competing.
But, even though she appears unstoppable, she recalled moments when she did not want to participate, but after receiving lots of encouragement, she decided to continue.
Nonetheless, the elderly woman said she was looking forward to the track and field finals of the National Senior Games next month, when she plans to compete in the 50 metres and 100 metres –– if her body allows.
Until then, she will continue with her singing, which she has been doing from the age of 12, as well as keeping up with her ten grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.