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“Every birthday I’m the youngest in my age group again” -Willie Banks


The American triple jumper, who we will get to see at the European Masters Games 2023, wrote his name in the history books, not only with the silver medal at the World Championships in Helsinki in 1983, but with his rhythmic encouragement clap that has lived on in the stands until this day. 

The rhythmic claps by Willie Banks

Banks laughs and recalls the moment with warmth, even though Banks, who clapped his hands rhythmically to encourage his rival, lost the World Cup gold to Pole Zdzislaw Hoffmann by 24 cents. 

– In retrospect, we achieved something bigger with Hoffmann than the World Championship medals in Helsinki. To this day, we still call it synergy with Hoffman. It all started with the fact that Hoffmann was about to jump the last decisive World Cup jump. I started clapping my hands together in a slow rhythm, the crowd converged, and Hoffman went off to his performance and jumped further than I did. In the following races, the crowd began this rhythmic clap for the triple jumpers and repeated it from one race to the next. It seems incredible that we achieved something like that, although honestly I wanted to encourage my rival to win. That’s how it became a tradition for the athletics fields, and it still lives on. 

It’s been 40 years since the rhythmic claps, but the triple jumper remembers the day like yesterday. Now Banks has just turned 67. The U.S. track and field athlete is delighted with each coming year.

– Every time there is one more year, I say that I can be the youngest in an age group again. Now that I was 67, I am again the youngest in this age group and I can go beyond myself in different areas of life with a smile. 

The sense on community is just as important

Banks hasn’t jumped the triple jump in years but has found many other ways to participate in various adult sports events since his elite years. One cornerstone in setting goals today is to take care of ones mind and body, but finding the sense on community is just as importantThe community unites you to be a part of a close-knit family of adult athletes and that also includes the younger generations. 

– If you want to take good care of your bones, muscles and body, all movement is like oil for it. This is when the body starts to react and produce pleasure hormones and you feel good. My motto is: Motion is lotion. 

– The fact that younger people see adults playing sports in a goal-oriented manner and, above all, surpassing themselves after various performances, gives an example to the younger generations that you can surpass yourself regardless of age. For example, grandchildren can be proud of their own grandmother, who takes good care of herself by moving according to her own level even at an older age.

Banks stresses that sport should never be about just maintaining physical fitness, but about forming a legacy of one’s own life and having the courage to try something even as an adult. 

– You know, when you meet someone who hasn’t achieved the things they dreamed about when they were younger. They’ve invested in a career or done something else. Then, when they are closer to the age of 55 or even 60, they want to experiment and implement something they have always dreamed of. E.g. running. They start running, realize after a while that they are quite good at it and want to try their own abilities at in a goal-oriented way, for example. at adult sports events. It is the best that an individual can offer for themselves. Who looks for solutions for their well-being just in order to stay in shape? After all, the purpose is more to create legacies in one’s own life, and to gain the energy and joy from it. It is transmitted to every aspect of life. 

Willie Banks will be seen as one of the event EMG-Ambassador at the European Masters Games 2023 this summer.

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