Irene Obera wins her 3rd USATF Athlete of Week award, but (many) outdoor WRs await

Irene Obera, shown in a majestic Torun pose by Rob Jerome, could threaten a half-dozen world records outdoors in 2019.

For at least the third time since 2014, Hall of Famer Irene Obera has been named USATF Athlete of the Week. The latest honor was announced Wednesday. This removes the egregious stain on her rep at Torun worlds, when she was the lone entrant in the W85 high jump, passed at .80 meters (2-7 1/2) and then had three misses at .83 (2-8 3/4). NM by her name. No gold. But I guess I’ll have to forgive her, since she set three world records in Poland.

Indy’s fine summary: “Obera, 85, set world records in the women’s 85 division of the 60m (12.28) and 200m (44.18), and was part of Team USATF’s 80+ 4x200m relay that set a WR of 3:18.43. She also won the 85 division 60m hurdles and long jump, and added silver medals in the 400m, triple jump and shot put. Those medals brought her career total in WAVA/WMA championships to 73, 49 of them gold.”

Of course, Irene is a former WMA Athlete of the Year and also won USATF Masters AoY honors a couple times.

So it’s ironic that Irene has mulled hanging up her spikes at least twice — as I wrote five years ago.

Her W85 season now moves outdoors, where the listed WRs are:

  • 100: 19.83 Mitsu Morita JPN 85 20/07/08 Isahaya City, JPN
  • 200: 41.58 -0.8 Emiko Saitou JPN 86 12/11/17 Kofum JPN
  • 400: 1:49.46 Nina Naumenko RUS 86 16/09/11 Lignano, ITA

WMA lists no W85 record for the 80-meter hurdles or 200 hurdles, so they are Irene’s for the taking. (She holds the W80 records at 18.70 at age 82 and 42.24 at age 80.)

Also give her a shot at the long jump record: 2.93 (9-7 1/4) by Denmark’s Rosa Pedersen. The TJ record is 5.50 (18-0 1/2) by Aussie legend Ruth Frith. And what the hell. Go for the shot record of 7.97 (26-1 3/4) by Belgium’s Rachel Hanssens.

How incredible will Irene be in 2019? You tell me.

Finally, great trivia from Rob Jerome:

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at or Story tips always welcome!

1 Comment on "Irene Obera wins her 3rd USATF Athlete of Week award, but (many) outdoor WRs await"

  1. Alan Kolling | April 7, 2019 at 11:41 am | Reply

    Knowing how much Irene hates this sort of speculation, I think it is important to remember that there are other very highly talented W80ers who will soon enter the W85 age group and who will likely shatter records too. Perhaps even more so than Irene, who may limit herself to only a few running events this outdoor season. I guess only Time will tell.

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