Michael Brown, 67, Jacksonville, Florida
At the age of 50, Michael Brown achieved something that athletes of any age yearn for – a record. The former Jacksonville, Florida high school teacher and track and field coach threw his javelin a whopping 226 feet at the 2004 Florida Senior Games, and then repeated the same distance at the 2005 National Senior Games in Pittsburgh. No senior athlete has made a javelin throw over 200 feet, in either event, since.
Michael also holds the Masters Track and Field World Record in the 55-59 age group with a throw of 216 feet 10 inches, established in 2010. No one is more surprised with his lasting records, but the true tale of the tape for Michael is measured in years, not yards. “My comeback and the journey since is every bit as important,” he proclaims.
Following his 2010 performance, Michael went surfing and experienced pain in his throwing shoulder. An MRI led to three shoulder surgeries, a rotator cuff surgery, and finally a nerve transfer surgery from his elbow to shoulder. “The first surgery didn’t go well, and neither did the second,” he says. “Looking back, I wish I would have just done rehab. I took a chance and it didn’t work.”
His doctors said he would never throw again, and he briefly thought about hanging it up. Instead, Michael decided to prove them wrong, going to the gym three to four days a week and doing rehab every day without fail for almost three years. “It hurt just to hold onto the pullup bar, but after six months it stopped hurting,” he explains. “After another six months I could do half a pullup. After three years, I got to where I could do one solid pullup. It’s been six years since then, and now I can do three sets of 20 good pullups.”
Michael didn’t pick up a javelin for five years, and he recalls some friends were questioning his sanity about making a comeback. “But I kept dreaming about throwing at night, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind,” Michaels says. “As long as I was going to dream about it, I decided I needed to give it an effort. When you’ve got a burning sensation to do something, you might as well do it.”
The hard work paid off when he returned to the 2018 Florida Senior Games and proved best in the 65-69 age group. At the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque, Michael won the gold medal with a throw of 150 feet, 8 inches, 13 feet further than the silver medalist.
Beyond his redemptive performance, the comeback journey reinforced Michael’s pure love of enjoying sports with others. “There’s just something about the camaraderie of the Games and the people,” he says. “Sure, I can go fishing or play golf, but it doesn’t get the juices flowing like being at a meet.”
The easy-going thrower enjoys seeing people of all abilities in Senior Games. “You don’t have to perform at a certain level to start in local games,” he advises. “Don’t be embarrassed, just try and you’re part of the fraternity. Who knows, maybe you do get good at something.”
After a moment, Michael concludes, “Besides, to be the best fan, you have to be an athlete. That way, you get to see everything!”