An 84-year-old pole vaulter isn’t putting her pole down anytime soon. In fact, she competed on March 30 in the World Masters Athletics Championship Indoor games in Poland. The games are for athletes age 35 and older. Florence “Flo” Filion Meiler took home gold for her pole vault there. She was the only competitor in her age bracket (80 and up), however.
Meiler used two of her allowable three attempts to clear a 1.45 meter (4’ 9”) bar in the pole vault. She also competed in three other events for additional gold and silver medals.
What motivates this petite, energetic woman from Shelburne, Vermont? At almost 85 years old, she’s quite fit and says she feels more like 70. Like the righteous person referred to in Psalm 92, she seems “ever full of sap and green.”
“I do train five days a week. And when I found out I was going to compete at the worlds, I’ve been training six days a week,” she said approximately a week in advance of the competition.
Meiler is used to hard work. She grew up on a dairy farm, helping with chores like feeding cattle and raking hay. In school, she enjoyed basketball and tap and ballroom dancing. She also participated in competitive water skiing and doubles tennis as an adult.
But Meiler is a relative newbie to pole vaulting. At age 60, a friend encouraged her to just give the long jump a try. Up for most new challenges, Flo agreed. “That was the beginning of my track career,” she says, standing in her home surrounded by medals. She took up pole vault at age 65. It and the hurdles became her favorite events.
“You have to have the upper core and you have to have timing, and I just love it because it’s challenging,” Meiler says, smiling confidently.
Her coach, Emmaline Berg, speaks highly of her work ethic and dedication: “She comes in early to make sure she’s warmed up enough. She goes home and stretches a lot. So she pretty much structures her entire life around being a fantastic athlete, which is remarkable at any age, let alone hers.”
That commitment has certainly paid off. Meiler is a local celebrity in Vermont, and she holds the world record for best “80 and over” women’s pole vault, with a height cleared of 6 feet.
Meiler turns 85 in June. She plans to compete in a new age group at the National Senior Games in New Mexico then. And she hopes to set even more records.