Revisiting Local Athlete Bernie Stamm
Earlier this year as part of my Spotlight on Local Athletes series I interviewed 81-year-old Bernie Stamm, a fascinating world ranked high jumper and javelin thrower. At that time, Bernie’s training for the Virginia Senior Games in May and the World Masters Track and Field Championships in Toronto in late July had just been thwarted by the corona virus. Both championships had been cancelled with no plans to reschedule at a later date; however, Bernie kept a positive attitude and said, “… there is always next year, even at my age.”
An unexpected surprise came Bernie’s way in the form of a virtual championship and Bernie quickly resumed his training. I’ll let his trusty javelin caddie, nutritionist, and wife Carol Stamm finish the story…
A Virtual World Championship
In our COVID-ravaged world, not only were the Olympics canceled, but nearly all athletic events worldwide were rescheduled for a year later. Among those were the World Masters Athletics Championships, which was scheduled to be held in Toronto, Canada in late July and early August of this year. Bernie Stamm (and I, his trusty javelin-caddy and nutritionist) had planned an extended trip up north to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Bernie kept up his weight-training regimen and practiced throwing the javelin in the field behind Steuart Weller Elementary School. To overcome the limitations imposed on weight training at the Gym located at the Club House where we live, we purchased a TotalGym and installed it in the loft of our home. High jump practice was a little more difficult, since many high schools took in their equipment when the students’ studies went virtual in the spring. Fortunately, he found one school where the high jump apparatus was still out. Unfortunately, it was behind a locked gate. Fortunately, my limber husband was able to climb the gate. Unfortunately, he was caught by a security guard. Fortunately, the guard found it funny that an 81-year old would climb a fence to do high jump and didn’t report him. Bernie then contacted the athletic director to gain permission to practice, which was granted.
It was announced shortly after that that the World Championships were canceled but that a Worldwide Virtual Masters Challenge was going to be held. This entailed performing the discipline on your own, recording it and submitting it to a panel. Bernie enlisted the aid of a friend to help hold the high jump bar and validate the height. We also enlisted our PG neighbor, Don Burnham, who is a registered Track and Field official, to lend credence to the effort.
The day of the high jump, Bernie pulled a hamstring muscle as he was warming up, so that event had to be scratched. As it turned out, all the other potential entrants had problems finding the apparatus to perform the high jump so there was no competition at all.
Two weeks later we went to Weller Elementary in the evening and laid out a course, with markers for various lengths, on the field inside the track. The next morning we went back to the field with Don and our friend, Bernie warmed up, and threw the javelin 109 feet 2 inches. We submitted the results to the panel and awaited the results.
Eight entrants were in the event, five from the US, two from Germany and one from Norway. Bernie’s throw was the longest by far. The next best throw was 93 feet 10 inches.
Bernie is now a VIRTUAL world champion in the 80-84 age group. Next year the canceled Masters Athletics Championships will be held in Finland. I don’t think we’ll go, but at least he has this proud accomplishment.
Congratulations and Thank You
Congrats to Bernie on his successful spring season despite a setback with not only a pulled hamstring, but a global pandemic. A huge thank you goes to Bernie for setting the bar high (see what I did there) and proving that you’re only as old as you feel. He continues to inspire those around him to be the best that they can be through his fitness-focused healthy lifestyle.
Thank you, Bernie, for letting me tell your story!
To read the original article Meet Bernie Stamm, World Ranked High Jumper and Javelin Thrower from my Spotlight on Local Athletes series, please click here.
- • What cancelations due to COVID affected you most?
- • Have you participated in any sporting event beyond the high school or collegiate level?