Rossmoor’s Soula Thomas gains gold in race walk event

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On July 7, just six weeks short of her 87th birthday, Rossmoor resident Athanasia “Soula” Thomas won the gold medal in the 5000 meter Race Walk event at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Sacramento, California.

This is the first time in 16 years that the competition was held in the United States. Nearly 5000 athletes, ages 35-101, from 93 countries, entered into the biannual track and field competition which included the famous former Olympians, Al Joyner and Zola Budd.

The Race Walk event started later in the day than Soula usually competes, and the heat was blazing hot on the track, without any shade to bring any relief.

From the grandstands, no one could know that her head was throbbing but the pounding pressure didn’t stop this octogenarian from reaching her goal to earn the highest medal in her 85-89 year old division, and even defeating many walkers many years younger.

What a pleasure it was for her to stand on the Winners’ Platform and to hear the band play “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Soula has competed in the WMA meets in England, Australia, Spain, Italy, Finland, and the USA. She won a bronze medal in Australia in 2001, and a bronze in Finland in 2009, and the GOLD in 2011.

After the events and the ceremonies had ended, this petite 5’ race walker walked back to her Sacramento Hotel wearing her gold medal in plain sight which caught the attention from many passersby. Some asked about her age, and how long she’d been competing. They were amazed at her age and her competitive spirit.

Actually, Soula didn’t begin exercising at all until she reached age 55.  She had been very busy working full time, and raising three children, Soula and her husband, Bill, celebrated their 6oth wedding anniversary in May.

She began race walking at age 66 with the Easy Striders Club in Irvine, California, where she trains and practices each Saturday morning.

Admirers at various times have asked her, “How do you keep so fit?” She says, “It’s never too late to start exercising, so get out there and walk.”

Rossmoor’s Soula Thomas gains gold in race walk event