Do you see yourself skydiving, bungee jumping, or hiking 14,000 feet up Mount Kilimanjaro when you are 90 years old? That’s exactly what Shirley Radecki has done.
Radecki, who lives in Eugene, most recently traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico. There she participated in the 90-94 age group as a swimmer in the 2019 National Senior Games. She won a gold medal in the women’s 50-yard backstroke and a silver medal in the women’s 100-yard backstroke.
“It was pretty nice,” Radecki said, as reported by The Register-Guard. “Pretty impressive.”
Her only competition in her age group was Sara Sievert from Texas. Because of this, they took turns taking the win. Sievert won the gold in the 100-yard backstroke and silver in the 50-yard backstroke.
“We were just a few seconds apart really,” Radecki said. “She was pretty good competition.”
The event was Radecki’s second time competing, and her first time receiving a medal, save the state qualifiers in 2018.
She competed in the 100-yard breaststroke as well. However, she was disqualified because she did not touch both hands on the wall or use proper leg form.
It all started for Radecki at the 2018 Oregon Senior Games in Bend. It was there that she qualified for the national games. In the beginning, Radecki was uncertain if she wanted to compete. But her daughter, Shaundele Leatherberry, convinced her that it would be a good thing to do.
Last year, Radecki spent her time training and preparing for the competition. She trained at the River Road Park and Recreation pool with the help of her coach. She ate peanut butter and banana toast, and practiced swims and water aerobics two times every week.
Her daughter said it was important for her mother to be around more people her age that could keep up with her.
“She’s around a lot of people her age that don’t do anything,” Leatherberry said. “I wanted her to be around more active seniors and really have something to work toward.”
Even though she has tight competition in the pool, Radecki said she’s not a competitive person, she just keeps an extremely active lifestyle.
“I guess I do my best,” said Radecki, who also has two sons. “But I’m not gung-ho or anything like that.”
Leatherberry said her mother tends to downplay her abilities. Participating in the games showed her that even at 90 years old she could still be an athlete.
“There were signs that said, ‘welcome athletes,’” Leatherberry said. “I think people at that age have an image of themselves and things like this help them work toward something, and better themselves.”
Radecki acknowledged that credit goes to her daughter for getting her involved in the games. She said that most of her adventures have happened because her daughter did them first. In the last five years, Radecki went skydiving at 85 and climbed 14,000 feet up Mount Kilimanjaro at 87. To top it all off, she’s also been bungee jumping in New Zealand.
She already got the gold, but Radecki has no plans for slowing down. Her goal is to skydive again when she turns 95. Currently, she swims often and golfs twice a week.
“I mean, what else am I going to do?” Radecki said. She has been married two times, widowed once and reconnected in her late 70s with a childhood sweetheart who later passed away. “I don’t want to go out to lunches, that’s too boring. It’s just good to have things to do.”
When it comes to living a long and happy life, Radecki said she’s been lucky to have her health and a supportive family.
“You know it’s important to eat healthy, stay active and do what you do best,” Radecki said. “But having a good relationship with my family has been really special.”
Leatherberry said that while she is her mother’s biggest cheerleader, she wants people to know what a great person she is.
“She’s always lived a really healthy lifestyle and has really taken care of herself,” Leatherberry said. “She really deserves her day in the sun.”
The 2021 National Senior Games are projected to take place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Radecki said she’s not sure if she’ll compete again. She plans to focus on things one day at a time at this point.
“I don’t want to make predictions, so we’ll have to see,” Radecki said. “But if my daughter is at it and wants to, then I’d do it, too.”
Read The Register-Guard’s story here.