HUMANA Hero: Fred Winter, 101, Holland Michigan
Many recall the epic battle of centenarians in Minnesota last summer at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. The matches between Fred Winter and John Zilverberg in men’s 100-104 discus, javelin and shot put were hotly contested and caught the attention of many media outlets, including Sports Illustrated and NBC’s TODAY Show. ESPN also selected a video clip as a Top Play of the Day. A commonly-heard phrase on the field that day was, “I want to be like them when I grow up.
Who came out on top? “I got him, won all three,” said Fred Winter, who also earned gold in the 50 and 100 meter dashes. “I kinda feel sorry for him because he tried so hard. I suppose if he’s well, he’ll be back though.”
Fred has taken all the media attention and “attaboys” from athletes and others in stride. “Before I was 100, nobody noticed me,” he chuckled. “I’ve been to all National Senior Games but one, the first one in St. Louis. I got bronzes in the ‘80s, silvers in the ‘90s, and now golds after 2000. As I get older, I have less and less competition. I guess I outlasted some people.”
Recently, Fred earned an honor beyond anything he could have imagined. Chicago’s highly regarded Museum of Science and Industry has included his photo and an auditory message as part of an exhibit focusing on centenarians from across the United States. The exhibit is planned to remain on display for at least 7 years. He, his wife Darlene of 65 years and several family members have already made the trip from Michigan to see it. “Never expected that,” he said, “but I think it’s great.”
Fred hasn’t always been so athletic, and the turning point came when he was 70 and surveyed other men his age. "I wanted to see how I stacked up," he told People Magazine. "And let's just say, it wasn't good." That’s when he jumped into Senior Games, and he hasn’t looked back.
The elder athlete now follows a healthy diet, regular exercise and abstains from alcohol. Part of his regimen is to do 100 pushups every day. “I did 130 today,” he told us. “What’s the record for pushups for my age?”
Fred is grateful for his longevity and keeps his vision looking forward. “I survived the Battle of Okinawa and two typhoons,” the Navy veteran and former teacher mused. “I never thought then I’d make it to here. But I'm staying strong, and I’ll come to Birmingham for Nationals if the Lord permits me, and I don’t have a setback. I’ll see how I’m feeling then.”
Thanks Fred. You are a treasure to behold on the field…and now, in the museum.