Frenchman Robert Marchand, who holds the world record for his age group in 1-hour track cycling, was named by researchers as the best athlete over 100-years-old.
University of Burgundy, Dijon researchers were investigating how age affects athletic performance in elite sport stars as they age. They did this by comparing each with the current world record holder for their discipline. Though their initial investigation focused on athletes over the age of 40, the team decided to use their methodology out the world’s best 100-plus sportsperson.
Cycling 26.93 kilometres in one hour, Marchand was 50.6 percent slower than Bradley Wiggins’s 54.53 km record. By comparison, Donald Pellmann, competing in the 100 metre running race for the 100 to 104 age-group in 2015, turned in a time of in 26.99 seconds – a 64.5 percent decrease compared with world record holder Usain Bolt.
Studies have shown that top athletic ability can be maintained until around 35 to 40 years of age, with performance decreasing by about 10 to 15 percent per decade.
But Marchand has declined much more slowly, corresponding to an age-related decline of less than eight percent per decade for more than 60 years.
Marchand was born in 1911 in the norther French city of Amiens. He started riding when he was 14 years old, in 1925, but during his long working career he didn’t have time anymore. He took up the bike again when he was 67 years old. When he was 89 he finished the 600-kilometre race between Bordeaux and Paris in 36 hours.