Athletes with dentures


Think about your grandmother. Yes, that old woman that wakes up in the morning, does the shopping in the market, prepares dinner and spends all the afternoon watching TV. And now imagine her wearing an athletics uniform and trainers and running 200 metres or taking part in a high or long jump competition. Weird, isn’t it?

Images like that were usual in the last European Veterans Athletics Championships, held in San Sebastian during last week, with athletes between 35 and 96 years old coming from all around Europe. I had the opportunity to work as a referee and I would like to share some experiences and situations that where absolutely fascinating.

The simple fact of be still living at the age of 95 is an extraordinary feat. But it is far more extraordinary to practise sport and have the nerve to travel from Finland, Belgium or Russia to compete against other athletes and try, at those ages, to win the title of European Champion. That is the case of Emiel Pauwels (96) and Ilmari Koppinen (95) the only two athletes over 95 that competed in San Sebastian and that faced each other in the finals of 60 and 200 metres. Pauwels won both races, but there is not room for doubt that both runners deserve to be considered as great champions. The Belgian also got the silver medal in the 400m, an event where he was the only over 95 years athlete and competed in the over 90 category.

Here is the video of the 60 metres final in the category of M95, with Pauwels winning by a tiny advantage of 0,12 seconds:

It was also a striking imagine to watch women over 80 running in speed races and after reaching the finish line, when the organization staff boys guide them back to the changing zone, see how their hands slide towards the lads bottom. The spectators could not stop laughing at that surprising view.

But which we  can consider  “the image” of the championships spread from one phone of the staff members to the others. An old man let his false teeth in the box where athletes  put their belongings just before they go to the start line and forgot them there when he finished and picked-up his clothes and his sport bag. The false teeth remained there until a staff member found them when the box was going to be used by another athlete. I suppose that someone brought the teeth to the lost properties room where the owner got them back. 

A competition like this, with athletes coming from so different cultures and countries, let us many curious stories. A Russian man, after taking his number and official equipment from the competition headquarters, asked to a staff member where he could catch the bus to Paris, as he had booked a room in the capital city of France, more than 800 kilometres away from San Sebastian. It seems that for Russians 800 kilometres is not a wide distance for travelling. Another athlete, from Hungary, arrived to San Sebastian with 30€ in his wallet and thought it would be enough for spending the whole week in the city. He could not imagine that in San Sebastian you can barely have 2 meals or a very humble one night lodging with that quantity.


The competition is some kind of mix between a “circus” with very old people doing things that you hardly could imagine they were be able to do and an athletics competition with very prepared and conscientiously trained athletes that are too old to compete against the best of the world, but find in the veterans category a motivation to lengthen their sport career.

With more than 3.000 athletes participating, this kind of competition mixes sport, tourism, self-improvement and praise to the old people skills. Although the society makes them seem useless and they are thought to spend the rest of their live prostrated, sitting in their couch watching TV, they still have the courage and vitality for travelling to a foreign country, dress with their nation’s official uniform and run, jump or throw to try to win a medal. Absolutely inspiriting and exemplary for all of us.


The grandpa mountaineer

On of the most fascinating stories that you can find in the world of the mountain climbing is Carlos Soria’s challenge. He is trying to surmount the 14 higher mountains of the world, in Spain known as the “ochomiles” (the eight-thousands). That could be a usual history from a dreamer mountain climber if you didn’t take into account his ID. Carlos Soria was born in 1939 and he is 73 years old. He has just come back from an expedition in which he has been focussed for the last month and a half: reaching the summit of Dhaulagiri, the mountain which could have been his 12 from 14 higher mountains.

But he failed. Only with 600 metres left to the summit the strong wind and the risk of avalanches make him go back to the camp base. His conscientiousness and his experience make him return in order to not put himself at risk. He felt strong and he was too close. He wouldn’t give up easily. That’s why he stayed one day at Camp 3, waiting for a coming better weather. But the weather worsened and there was not other choice to leave the mountain.

He started climbing 8.000 metres mountains when he was 51, in 1990, and since them he has get 11, being the older person to climb K2, BroadPeak, Makalu, Manaslu and Lhotse. Yet, he is the only person climbing nine of 8.000 metres high mountains at the age of 60 or more.

In fact, Carlos worked as an upholsterer, but after retirement he focused on his main hobby and his great passion: the mountains. For many years, men have had a strange and inexplicable fondness for climbing mountains. Robert Macfarlane explains it in his book “Mountains of the mind”. He states that mountains induce modesty on us, reshapes our understanding of ourselves; make us aware of our own smallness. And, of course, reignites our astonishment at the simplest transactions of the physical world. Mountains become a drug from many people It’s not easy to understand why many people dedicate themselves on climbing mountains. For some, it has no sense. It’s only a stupid way upwards so as to go downwards then. But for people like Carlos Soria this is a simple way of life.

Soria has also climbed the 7 highest mountains of the 7 continents, challenge that he finished at age 71. And he has only 3 mountains left to have reached the summit of the 8 higher mountains of the world.

Since 2011 he is sponsored by the Spanish bank BBVA (also sponsor of the NBA or the Spanish Football League), that has provide him better conditions to keep on doing what he most likes: climbing mountains. The sponsonship campaing is called “I climb with Carlos Soria”.

It’s difficult to say if he could conclude his challenge, but to try reaching 8.000 metres high mountains at the age of 73 is, without doubt, a great merit and a true inspiriting story of overcoming.

Some curiosities about the Stade de Suisse


Many times we watch a football stadium only the place where the game happens. Sometimes a stadium surprises you with some skills that cannot be watched with a simple look. For example, it’s nice to discover some curiosities about the Stade de Suisse, the stadium of Young Boys in Berna (Switzerland). It was built on the grounds of the former Wankdorf Stadium and opened on july 2005.

It has a  capacity of 32,000 spectators and all the seats are covered. It is the second biggest stadium in Switzerland and it was one of the venues in the 2008 Eurocup. Its surface is an artificial turf and it cost 350 million suisse franc. Just below the playing field is one of the largest shopping centers in Switzerland and a parking  with over 700 places. The stadium also includes schools, homes, a fitness center, several gyms and some restaurants.

At first sight it may seem a common stadium. But it is not:

Curiosity 1: Ecological stadium

On top of the stadium it’s placed the world largest stadium-integrated photovoltaic installation. It consists of approximately 8,000 Solar modules covering an area of 12,000 m2. In one year it can provide enough electrical energy for approximately 325 average households per year, 1,134,045 kWh in total and a Co2 saving of about 567 tons/year. The electricity from the photovoltaic installation powers the stadium and the neiborghood around the area.

Curiosity 2: The hot seat

In the stadium there is a single red seat, all the others are both black or yellow. It is the first seat installed in te stadium, in 20th january of 2005. There are not tickets available for that seat and it is used to be reserved for a famous visitors or Young Boys former players. The suisse goalkeeper Walter Eich unveiled it.

Curiosity 3: Icy record 

The stadium is not only used as a football ground. Many live shows and spectacles  have taken place there (Bon Jovi, Ac/Dc, Bruce Springsting or Red Hot Chili Peppers have played there). The Stade de Suisse has the record on attendance to a Ice Hockey match in Europe. The local teams, SC Bern and SC Langnau choose the stadium to play their hundreth match. It was on January 14, 2007,  when they filled the Stade de Suisse with 30,076 fans and the tickets were sold out out within 53 hours of tickets going on sale.