Q&A: Masters athlete Linda Cohn on her world record-breaking performance at P-P All-Comers track and field meet

Masters athlete Linda Cohn broke a world record in javelin at the Pomona-Pitzer All-Comers track and field meet on Feb. 18. Courtesy: Southern California Striders Track and Field

At the Pomona-Pitzer All-Comers track and field meet on Feb. 18, Masters athlete Linda Cohn broke the world record in the women’s javelin for her age group, 70-74. She spoke on her dominant performance, later introduction to athletics and advice for staying active and having fun.

This conversation has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

TSL: Can you talk about your background in track and field and how you got started in javelin? 

Linda Cohn: I started throwing the javelin at the age of 50 to compete in the Senior Olympics. I had never done it before — it just wasn’t something women did. When I was younger, softball was the most organized thing that women did. I kind of randomly chose throwing the javelin. I just wanted to participate and then I wanted to win. I literally started at the age of 50 and then I was able to break an American record and I did that in every age group that I was in from when I started. 

The only way I was able to do that was because when I first started wanting to do it, I was able to find a college student to train me. They have running clubs and all kinds of things like that but no specific javelin-throwing coaches that I could find. I found a young man who loved the javelin and he trained me the way he’d been trained, so I was learning like an 18-year-old boy, but I didn’t say uncle and I learned.

I’m not the biggest person and I’m not the most flexible person, but technique is a big factor and I learned thanks to him. And then I was able to break an age group world record at the age of 60 and then I did it again at age 65. 

It’s been quite the ride. I have met the most amazing people in track and field and honestly it started with just a thought that I wanted to do something for the Senior Olympics. I had no idea where this was going to go, and it’s been really really fun.

TSL: Can you talk about your career path outside of track and field?

LC: I was a dental hygienist for 40 years. I would talk to my patients and they were always like, “what are you doing?” and I was always doing some random, weird athletic kind of thing. When my dentist [I worked for] retired, I decided to become a fitness trainer at the age of almost 60. 

TSL: Was your start in track and field at 50 your first introduction to athletics?

LC: When I was [first] married, my husband and I did co-ed softball and bowling, the girly things. I qualified for “American Gladiators.” I was 40 at the time and I hadn’t been training but thought I could do it. I wasn’t afraid of doing random athletic things. I had a friend who ended up doing bike-riding and we wound up doing these long bike rides, but javelin was really the thing I was meant to do.

TSL: I read that you enjoy competing in random track and field events for fun. Can you talk about that and the importance of finding joy in athletics?

LC: When I was first training to throw the javelin, Peter, the student that was teaching me, had me running, jumping and doing all these random things because the thought was that rather than put all my eggs in one basket at a track meet, I would try other events. 

I think the most events I’ve ever done at a track meet in one day was 10. I typically do six. I don’t train for the other events, but I like to do them like recess. I have so many medals, it’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s fun.

TSL: What’s next for you? What is your next big goal or aspiration?

LC: When I was getting close to breaking a world record, somebody asked me, “what are you going to do if you break the world record?” It really stopped me and I thought, “oh” because I tend to be goal-oriented. But you know what? Now I know I just want to keep making it higher, because even though I was able to beat the existing record, I want to throw farther. I am taking training much more seriously this year for the first time in a very long time. I’m actually lifting weights and really working, because even though I am older, fortunately, I don’t feel weaker. 

Actually, since I started so late, I still think I can get my best throw ever. I think it’s somewhere out there. I am realistic enough to know that I’m not going to break any records in shot put, but for some reason, javelin is mine! I even used ‘javelinda’ as a password for a while, it’s just so much a part of me.

TSL: Any last words of wisdom for our readers?

LC: If there’s one thing I want to do, it’s to let people know that there are these opportunities out there, that it’s really fun and that there are great people doing it. What’s interesting is as you get older, you can age and you can have your aches and pains, and don’t kid yourself, Masters track and field athletes have aches and pains, but they push past it, and they’re having so much more fun than people who just don’t try these things. 

I am not someone who seeks publicity. I do shy away from it, but it’s an important message, and the more people who know about this and learn about this and then will come and break my record, ok. Let them know! It’s really, really fun.

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