In scenes: Photographer ‘in awe’ of older athletes – BBC News

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Image copyright Alex Rotas

Image caption GB’s Angela Copson, 70, operates to a new world record in the women’s 10,000 m race( 70 -7 4 age group) with a period of 44’25”

As the world’s finest athletes are celebrated in London, few people know their older counterparts are returning from rivalry in Denmark. But while the two situates are wholly resisted in age, they are matched every step of the style in passion, exhilaration and determination. Photographer Alex Rotas, 68, is determined to prove it .

“I’m half in tears and half in awe watching these amazing athletes and what they achieve in their 60 s, 70 s, 80 s and 90 s and simply marvelling at their athleticism, ” said the Bristol-based photographer.

She has just returned from the European Masters Athletics Championships in Aarhus, Denmark – a journey described as “incredibly intense, unbelievably wonderful and jaw-dropping”.

Image copyright Alex Rotas

Image caption The 87 -year-old long jumper Ake Lund, from Finland, leaps into bronze medal posture in his age group, clearing 2.77 m
Image copyright Alex Rotas

Image caption Denmark’s Rosa Pederson, 87, wins the women’s long jump event in her age group, clearing 2.72 m

She took up photography several years ago and has expended much of her day since then looking through the lens at older sportsmen and women.

“Retirement is a word I skirt around and try not to use, ” she said.

“I started when I was 60, which is when I realised there weren’t any images of older sporty people and being an older sporty person I knew they were out there. I did an internet search and once you set the word ‘old’ in you merely get those pictures of older people slumped in chairs. So I supposed ‘wow, there’s a gap worth filling’.”

Image copyright Alex Rotas

Image caption Hilja Bakhoff, 91, from Estonia, creates a new world record in the women’s weights throw event( 90 -9 4 age group) with a hurl of 8. 08 m
Image copyright Alex Rotas

Image caption GB’s Barry Ferguson, 71, and Germany’s Hartmann Knorr, 72, combat it out in the men’s 300 m impediments

Education has formed much of her career. In Greece she worked with with pre-school deaf children, through to analyse a PhD for herself and now she says she is spreading the word, in painting, that the ageing human body is capable of greatness.

“I was watching these people aged in their 60 s, 70 s, 80 s and 90 s just achieve the most incredible athletic feats that I never imagined were possible.

“I determined it very moving and it built me recalibrate my own sense of what the ageing body can do.

“It’s not only their athleticism that comes through, it’s their joy. These people are so full of life that it’s inspiration on every single level.”

Image copyright Alex Rotas

Image caption Latvia’s Leontine Vitola, 79, “always breaks into a radiant smile as she intersects the finishing line, wherever she’s placed”. She won a bronze medal in the 400 m race
Image copyright Alex Rotas

Image caption Drama in the final – GB’s Dalbir Singh Deol, 91, takes the win over Norway’s Harald Alfred Aanarud, 90, and Ernst Zuber, 86, from Germany who tripped and fell

She spent much of her youth playing tennis but the track and field has now captivated her, travelling throughout the UK with her camera and to championships in France, Finland, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Hungary and most recently Denmark.

“There’s something truly naked about track and field athletics. In tennis you have a racket and you can conceal your fitness, or absence of it, if you can do a really good drop shot as you get older.

“But in athletics you’ve just got your body. You take your body to the starting line, the firearm goes bang and you’re off. “

Image copyright Alex Rotas

Image caption Austria’s Marianne Maier, 74, prepares to take the women’s shot put championship( 70 -7 4 age group) with a throw of 9.80 m

“Some have carried on, meaning they have been athletes all their life, and some have come to it very late in life.

“Some were good in school but gave up when they had jobs and family and they take 50 years out and then come back. It’s quite remarkable.”

Image copyright Alex Rotas

Image caption “This[ photographing older sportspeople, primarily] is what I’ve been doing through my 60 s, ” says Alex Rotas

“Everyone has a story and everyone’s story is different, ” said Alex, who hopes to inspire others with the pictures she displays and talks she dedicates around the world.

And although she’s nearing 70 herself she’s committed to maintaining her love for starting things – “I love being a novice, ” she says with delight.

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Coverage of the World Athletics Championships continues live across BBC One and Two, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 5 live athletics extra, the BBC Sport website and app until Sunday.

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