Irene Obera vows comeback for 2019; expect W85 WR rewrite

Mark your calendars for 2019. That’s when W85 world records will drop like pins on the PBA tour. That’s when Irene Obera is coming back. The Masters Hall of Famer periodically emerges from her Bay Area habitat to rewrite the record books. After winning 2016 Top Female Athlete of the Year Honors, she’s biding her time till she turns 85 in December 2018. The unlikely source of this news is the Moroccan-based track site Om Riyadat, which helpfully runs in English as well as Arabic. “Upon returning home [from Daegu worlds], Obera — as she has throughout her long association with track and field — opted to step away from the sport … at least for a while,” says the profile, quoting her: “I decided to take a break, but that doesn’t mean that I’m sitting around doing nothing.” She underwent cataract surgery on both eyes April 20, and she says: “I’m glad I did it; there was nothing to it.”

Irene in Perth, winning one of her six golds. Photo by Rob Jerome

We further learn:

Currently, Obera stays active by walking two-and-a-half miles per day. And as someone whose sporting interests extend well beyond running, she hopes to get back to her bowling league soon. A little further along in her recovery, she would like to get back to playing tennis, too.

Though presently on hiatus from track and field, Obera insists that her association with the sport has not ended.

“I will be 84 on Dec. 7 this year,” she said, “and I know for sure when I’m 85, I’ll be running again.”

Here are records we expect to fall in 2019:


  • 100 — 19.83
  • 200 — 45.65
  • 400 — 1:49.46
  • High jump — .095 meters (3-1 1/4)
  • 80 hurdles — no record exists
  • 200 hurdles — no record exists
  • Heptathlon — no record exists


  • 60 — 12.57
  • 200 — 51.80
  • High jump — 0.89 (2-11)
  • 60 hurdles — no record exists
  • Pentathlon — no record exists

Throw in maybe long and triple jumps, and some relays, and she could account for close to 20 records. (She currently appears 12 times in WMA records.)

A star’s gotta do what a star’s gotta do.

Print Friendly

May 18, 2017

5 Responses

  1. Alan Kolling - May 18, 2017

    Last I heard, from a source closer to home, Irene plans to compete later this year and next, just not that intensely, so there really wont be a “comeback” in 2019. After three very challenging years, she is simply taking a break from major competition but will do what she has always done to prolong her longevity in the sport, and that is rest a little now and then, and just compete for fun.

    As for records falling in 2019, Irene would be the first to remind you that she expects her age-group peers, Christel Donley and Flo Meiler, to be in the same hunt as she will be for many of those marks. God willing, all three will be healthy and competing together for many more years.

  2. Christel Donley - May 19, 2017

    Alan, this is fun to read.

    Who will be the fourth relay runner? Who will step up/step in, and also aim for records?

    “As for me and my ambitions” I will FOLLOW Irene and everybody else in our age group.
    As you said, staying healthy is the GOAL.

  3. Mary Harada - May 19, 2017

    I hope to be available for the 400! I have run the 4 x 100 – so there is that too! But it will have to be in 2020 after I turn 85 – Toronto! Hopefully we will all be upright and still able to move forward in 2020.

  4. Doug Smith - May 20, 2017

    I invited Irene to TO2020. She is the only active athlete who competed in Toronto 1975…..after Ed passed away.

  5. Alan Kolling - May 20, 2017

    Doug, Irene originally intended Perth to be her last WMA meet. It wasn’t until shortly after we returned that Irene realized that TO2020 would be a nice way to end her career. We can only hope for the best and try to get through the next couple of years. If healthy, Irene would be hard-pressed not to attend your meet but people should expect a drastically reduced program (from Perth’s ten events).

Leave a Reply