Kona’s oldest female competitor this year is swimming in a fountain of youth.

Kona’s oldest female competitor this year is swimming in a fountain of youth

Among those getting the senior citizen discount, most say old age began in their 60s. But don’t tell 72-year-old Cheryl Weill that. 60? That’s when she learned how to swim.

“I first became aware of Ironman in the 1980s,” Weill reflects, “but at the time I was busy with my career in neuroscience. I didn’t get serious about triathlon until 2004.”

Weill, who had been a runner and cyclist since her college days, decided to use her newfound free time in retirement to finally indulge her multisport interests. “A friend I met cycling encouraged me to give it a try. All I had to do was become a swimmer, so at 60 years of age, I started swimming.”

Weill jumped into the pool and discovered a fountain of youth. She gets a lot of energy from the people who surround her: As one can imagine, there aren’t too many other 70-year-old triathletes training with her. “I train with a local Masters swim group,” says Weill, who lives in Fort Collins, Colo. “My partner also does triathlons, and sometimes I can train with her, but she is 55 and faster than me.”

Some might assume her age also offers an advantage in Kona qualifying. After all, she was the only person in her age group at Ironman Maryland in 2016, automatically earning a Kona spot simply for finishing. But that only distracts from her 13:59:02 finishing time, a respectable performance at any age.

Her goal for Kona is to have fun, do the best she can and absorb a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She doesn’t plan to fully retire from Ironman post-Kona, but she does plan to take a break. Or, as she puts it, to “smell some other roses, do shorter triathlons and more distance cycling.”

“I think one secret to aging is having something you want to do, a goal or several goals,” she says. “Have a bucket list and go after it with passion. Triathlons are something I want to do as long as I am able. I get a tremendous satisfaction when people pass me in a race and tell me they want to be like me when they grow up. It makes me smile.”