Book review: ‘Masters Athletics’ is an academic tour de force

Translated from Polish to English.

Authors Kryzysztof Kusy and Jacek Zielinski sent me their academic masterpiece three years ago, and I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to give it proper due (even though I noted its existence in February 2007). The book, which debuted as a “monograph” at the July 2006 Eurovets championships, is a serious look at masters track and covers our history, demographics, records and societal significance. Bravely, the authors also tackle — in a dense, 17-page chapter — “Anti-doping in masters sport.” They give attention to doping education and the prospect of gene doping. KK and JZ doubt illegal doping in masters track is as extensive as elite track, saying we don’t have the same commercial incentive. But “masters are likely to reach for doping agents in order to relieve the consequences of an injury. However, the main reason seems to be the prevention of aging processes and the consequent unavoidable reduction of physical fitness that older competitors find hard to accept.”

The nitty gritty:

“Masters Athletics: Social, biological and practical aspects of veterans sport,” published in 2006 by Eugeniusz Piasecki University School of Physical Education, Poznan, Poland; 187 pages, softcover; no cover price listed; 16.6×23.9 cm (6 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches)


10 chapters plus references.

Who this book is for:

Scholars, athletes and anyone interested in masters track.

What I liked:

This is a no-nonsense overview of masters track. The authors have surveyed a ton of research and literature, distilling the wisdom of academia while adding their own $.02. They naturally view the movement from a European perspective (and include a page-long foreword by Eurovets President Dieter Massin of Germany), but Americans can gain insights as well. Four pages of color

photos appear in the center of the softcover edition. Author KK is a former high jumper and JZ once did the triple jump, so they bring a participant’s appreciation to this work.

What I didn’t like:

The academic writing style (with many sentences interrupted by footnote and reference citations) is a little dry, but the translation from Polish is OK. I didn’t understand some of the statistical charts, but that’s just my problem. The book isn’t clear on how you obtain it. But its ISBN number is 83-88923-69-2, and “Order no. 7/06” is supposedly how you reference it through the university that published it.

Sample from Chapter 9: “Background to the physical activity of masters athletes”

There are noticeable preferences among masters athletes concerning the choice of the track and field event. The largest percentage of respondents listed sprint running as their favourite event (18%), while the least popular events include hurdles (5%) and long-distance runs (9%). The remaining groups of events — relay, middle-distance running, combined events, jumps, vaults and throws — are preferred by 12-15% of masters athletes. The decision to compete in their preferred event is related to age and gender. The oldest age groups show declining interest in middle and long-distance running, which are not practiced by women over 70 years of age, just as hurdles. As they age, both genders, but especially women, become more interested in combined events and throws. men over 70 years of age still participate in all event groups.

Bottom line:

This book goes deeper into masters track as a cultural phenomenon than any I’ve ever seen, and for that I’m grateful. The professorial tone isn’t that bad, so anyone who manages to procure this little gem will be well-rewarded.

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March 30, 2010

3 Responses

  1. Sue Deppe, MD - March 30, 2010

    Middle and long distance and hurdles not practiced by women over seventy, huh? Clearly the authors need to do a bit more research on those points!

    That said, it sounds like an interesting book.

    Thanks, Ken.

  2. Mary Harada - March 30, 2010

    gee I guess I need to give up middle distance events now and take up throwing stuff. What a bunch of nonsense.
    Is there supposed to be something about turning 70 that turns middle and long distance women into sprinters? If so – I am still waiting for it to happen.

  3. Tom Fahey - March 31, 2010

    How can a get this book? I checked for it on Amazon and on Google but could not find a source.

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