VANCOUVER — It took 100-year-old Indian runner Man Kaur almost a minute and a half to complete the 100-metre race, but she never broke her stride.
And when she crossed the finish line Monday at the Americas Masters Games in Vancouver, her competitors — many of them two decades younger — were there to cheer her on.
Kaur's energy and drive to compete have become an inspiration to participants in the unique international event for athletes over 30, say her son and fellow athletes.
"When she wins, she goes back to India, and she's excited to tell others, 'I have won so many medals from this country,' " said her son Gurdev Singh, 78, translating for his mother.
"Winning makes her happy."
After Kaur finished the race on Monday in one minute and 21 seconds, she stood smiling with her hands raised in the air. Asked how she felt, she breathed heavily and clutched a bottle of water, unable to speak.
Though she lagged behind other runners in their 70s and 80s, the centenarian picked up a gold medal as the only female competitor in her age category. It's her third top prize this week, after javelin and shotput.
Singh, who also competes in the Games, said he encouraged his mother to start running at age 93 because he knew she could become a star.
"I asked her. 'You have no problem, no knee problem, no heart problem, you should start running,' " he recalled. "She could become prominent all over the world."
She has since won more than 20 medals in Masters Games across the globe. While practising in her home of Chandigarh, she goes out every evening to run five or 10 short distances, said Singh.
If you're wondering whether Kaur holds an elusive secret to a long life, unfortunately it's what you might expect — a good diet and lots of exercise. Singh said she believes in promoting running to other women.
"She encourages them, old ladies, that they should run, they should not eat wrong foods, and they should encourage their children also to take part in the Games."
Charmaine Crooks, a five-time Olympian who won a silver medal for Canada in the women's 4x400-metre relay in 1984, serves as an athlete ambassador for the Masters Games. She praised Kaur's "dynamic spirit."
"I know that it's inspired me. Hey, I've got almost 50 more years to go, right?" Crooks said with a laugh. "She's inspiring everyone, young and old."
The World Masters Games take place every four years, with regional games in between. The Americas Masters Games in Vancouver is the first summer regional games in North America, Crooks said.
The average age of the athletes is 49, and there's even one man older than Kaur — 101-year-old Nihal Gill of Richmond, B.C.