Diane Cummins is finishing where she began. The Canadian record holder in the 800m made her debut here in the 800m in 1998. That’s right, 16 years ago!
A converted long jumper from South Africa, Diane switched to the 800m with the Richmond Kajaks. She soon set the National record of 1:58.39 that has stood throughout her long career. She has maintained a world-class ranking almost 4 times longer than the average athlete. Diane turns 40 this summer. It is reported that this will be her last race at the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic. Retirement beckons She has beat the biological clock as she has maintained her international performance levels.
Sport science tells us that as our biological clock keeps ticking, our physical performance slides downwards as age increases. Berthelot and his co-workers in Paris reported in 2012 in the scientific literature “The age of peak performance is computed at 26.1 years”. These sport scientists studied 1392 track and field athletes at the world-class level to find that after the magic age of optimal performance, a decline in running times was universally expected.
Diane Cummins challenged these predictions at the Canadian Championships last month when she won the bronze medalist in the 800m. This 40-year-old veteran 800m runner defied all predictions by taking 3rd spot in Moncton. This season she has run 2:02.36 just 3.26% below her Canadian record of 1:58.39 set 13 years ago in 2001.
Diane has beat her biological clock beyond the predictions of the sport scientists. It is true that her current Canadian record in the 800m was set at age 27 years back in 2001. This is close to the scientific prediction of the optimal age for peak performance but her accomplishment of running just over 3% above that level 13 years later at age 40 demonstrates her defiance of the biological clock. Her durability and consistency over her 16-year international career exceeds all expectations by experts in the sport including the governing body of the sport in this country, Athletics Canada.
Diane in her career to date, has run an outstanding 26 times under 2:00 minutes in the 800m. She has won a gold medal at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio, silver at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. She has won the Canadian 800m championships a total of 10 times. Diane truly does deserve our cheers for an outstanding career in this demanding sport.
Diane followed Charmaine Crooks as Canadian record holder as the second Canadian in breaking the 2-minute barrier in the 2 lap 800m distance with her 1:58.39 in 2001. In 2012, eleven years later, Melissa Bishop of Ottawa, now age 25 years and Jessica Smith of North Vancouver, now age 24 years joined the sub 2-minute club. Their times of 1:59.82 and 1:59.86 earned them a place on the Canadian Olympic team in 2012 where they gained valuable experience at the international level. With their predicted peak performance age of 26 years ahead of them, can we expect a new Canadian record in the 800m from them? Watch for Helen Crofts of West Vancouver and Jenna Westaway of Calgary to challenge of breaking the 2-minute barrier. They all will race on Thursday at Swangard Stadium
Over 300 athletes from 21 nations will compete in the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic featuring the 60th Anniversary of the Miracle Mile presented by Northern Gateway on July 10 at Swangard Stadium.
Tickets are $25 finish line and $10 general admission and are available at www.harryjerome.com