Irene Obera paired with Sydney McLaughlin in AoY announcement

It’s not news that W80 superstar Irene Obera is USATF’s Masters Athlete of the Year. But I love how Indy paired Irene, 82, with 16-year-old phenom Sydney McLaughlin in Monday’s homepage announcement. Sixty-six years apart, but fellow hurdlers they are. “McLaughlin and Obera will be honored on Saturday, December 3, at the Jesse Owens Awards in Orlando, Florida,” says USATF. “The event is held in conjunction with USATF’s Annual Meeting. A limited amount of tickets are available on site beginning Wednesday, November 30, at the Hilton Lake Buena Vista Hotel.” And just to think that Hall of Famer Irene was talking retirement 11 years ago and also more recently.

Sydney and Irene are just two peas in the superstar pod. Great work by Indy graphics person!

Sydney and Irene are just two peas in the superstar pod. Great photo editing!

The press release continues:

McLaughlin (Dunellen, New Jersey) set World U18 and U20 records in the 400-meter hurdles to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, finishing third in 54.15. McLaughlin initially broke the 32-year-old world junior record with her victory at the New Balance Nationals in June, crossing in 54.46. McLaughlin is undefeated in high school races since June 14, 2014 when she was just 14 years old.

“This has been the most incredible year of my life,” McLaughlin said. “I couldn’t have achieved what I did this year without the constant support and guidance of my parents, my brother, and my coach and teammates. I’d like to thank USATF for this amazing honor, as well as all the fans who voted for me.”

A week after her 17th birthday, McLaughlin placed fifth in her opening round heat in 56.32 in the 400 hurdles at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio to advance into the semifinal round. In the semis, she placed fifth in 56.22. McLaughlin was named Gatorade National Track & Field Athlete of the Year and went on to become only the second female non-senior to win Gatorade National Athlete of the Year behind 2015 USATF Youth Athlete of the Year, Candace Hill.

Obera (Fremont, California), also the 2014 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year, won gold in the W80 100 meters, 200 meters, the 80-meter short hurdles, 200-meter long hurdles, the long jump, 4x100m and 4x400m relays, and the heptathlon at the World Masters Championships in Perth, Australia this fall. Obera set world records in the short hurdles and heptathlon in Perth, and now holds world records in the 100m, 200m, short hurdles, long hurdles, 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay.

“I am grateful to USATF for recognizing the accomplishments of masters track and field athletes,” Obera said. “After a career spanning more than four decades, I gladly accept this award on behalf of all of my fellow masters athletes who show up every day and compete simply for the pure joy of it, and who have been such a tremendous source of support to me over the years.”

Obera also won seven USATF titles this year at the USATF Masters Indoor Championships in the 60 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, high jump, long jump, triple jump and pentathlon.

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November 28, 2016

7 Responses

  1. Rob Jerome - November 28, 2016

    I noticed the great photo editing, too, Ken. Really honored to have my photo of Irene in Perth paired with Sydney’s in Rio.

    I tried to get the word “Perth” in the background of many of the photos I shot at the WMAC to give them a sense of place. Works nicely that “Rio” is on the hurdle in Sydney’s photo so that both photos have the location identified.

    Congratulations to both of these great champs!

  2. Peter L. Taylor - November 28, 2016

    Irene Obera is “the truth.” She runs young, she looks young, and I love what she said about being 80+. She said something like, “Am I supposed to feel old? I don’t”.

    That’s a pretty loose recollection, but essentially she was wondering why it was incumbent on her to “feel old” when she didn’t feel old in any way, shape, or form.

    Keep on keeping on, Irene. You’re the greatest ever.

  3. Rob Jerome - November 28, 2016


    You are so right about Irene. Part of her success, I think, is due to her attitude.

    She is a real competitor, to be sure, but when I have photographed her I’ve noticed that she is so relaxed at exactly the right times. Stress doesn’t get to her and there’s never any drama.

    When she got the Bronze in the HJ in Perth, she said to me with a smile after her last jump, “Oh well, nice to get a medal of a different color.”

  4. Tom Sputo - November 28, 2016

    This is the type of picture and story that should be used by USATF for promotion in the general media.

  5. Alan Kolling - November 29, 2016

    Irene will take most of 2017 off to focus on her tennis game, but she will run a few local meets just to stay in the sport. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. She reflected recently on her first worlds in Toronto, a sign perhaps that she might finally definitely retire absolutely for sure after the 2020 meet there, for certain. If so, she’ll definitely be missed.

  6. Rob Jerome - November 29, 2016

    I was with Doug Smith in Perth when he invited Irene to WMAC Toronto in 2020, and she didn’t say “no”, so let’s hope that is a “yes” or at least a “I’ll think about it.” New age category and more records to set.

  7. Ann-Marie Coombs - March 20, 2019

    Great photo – would you mind if I shared/use it it?

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