Canadian’s track comeback — 51 years after last meet
Gotta love this. Joe Koza of Saskatchewan resumed track competition a couple years ago. His previous meet? Back in 1955. A local paper reported: “Two years ago, Joe and Marilyn were asked to compete in the dancing competition at a provincial seniors games. Marilyn wasn’t interested so Joe thought, ‘Why not track?’ “All I was thinking was: ‘You’re going to kill yourself,’ said (son) Daryl, a former coach with the Queen City Kinsmen. ‘He went to a meet in Moose Jaw and they brought back the pictures and I couldn’t believe he could do that.’ ” You go, Joe! And best of luck this indoor season.
Here’s the story, in case the link goes buh-bye:
Koza finding track is more than a hobby
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Daryl Koza is the odd man out at most track meets he attends.
While there are plenty more people his age watching the events, most are parents cheering on their children. Koza is there for his dad, 72-year-old Joe.
“I always cringe a little because he’s at that age where he’s still mobile and can still go and do things, so you don’t want anything to jeopardize that” the younger Koza said Saturday while watching his dad at the Friendship Games in the fieldhouse. “Even today he told me his back was sore so I told him not to do the jumps. First thing he does is look at me and say, ‘What?!’ He loves it.”
And Daryl was more than a little surprised when his dad told him two years ago that he wanted to start competing in masters track and field events.
After all, Joe hadn’t seriously competed since 1955.
Back then, Koza was a multi-time provincial champion and one of the best all-around athletes in the sport in Western Canada. In fact, he had the opportunity to compete at a meet in Winnipeg that — if he placed well enough — would have given him a spot in the Olympic trials.
But, as luck would have it, Koza’s brother was getting married the same weekend as the Winnipeg meet. For Koza, it was an easy choice.
“Back then, track and field was not a priority on the list — making a living was the priority,” said Koza, who turns 73 on Friday. “My relatives always said, ‘Why do you want to do that? It doesn’t do anything but cost money.’ It wasn’t high on the list of priorities, it was just your own gumption that drove you to do it.”
The “what-ifs” started then and lingered on especially after Koza beat several of the Winnipeg meet winners during competition in Saskatoon a week after his brother’s wedding.
After that track became little more than a hobby as Koza and his wife, Marilyn, raised a family in Imperial and ran their own excavating company. While he built his kids a high jump and long jump pit in the family’s backyard, Joe Koza was rarely around to see it. He spent most summers installing rural water lines across southern Saskatchewan.
Some 50 years went by before he would find his way back to a meet. Two years ago, Joe and Marilyn were asked to compete in the dancing competition at a provincial seniors games. Marilyn wasn’t interested so Joe thought, “Why not track?”
“All I was thinking was: You’re going to kill yourself,” said Daryl, a former coach with the Queen City Kinsmen. “He went to a meet in Moose Jaw and they brought back the pictures and I couldn’t believe he could do that.”
Two years and several provincial and national medals later, Koza is still going strong. He took first in the high and triple jumps (1.30 and 8.23 metres, respectively) Saturday and was second in the long jump after sailing 3.78m.
He’ll keep on sailing, too, until his body tells him it’s time to quit. He estimates, that’s at least 25 years off.
“My goal is to live to like maybe 120,” Koza said, laughing. “If I can still run at 100, I’ll be happy.”