Raschker masterful on the track

Philippa Raschker is the closest thing to a superstar masters athletics has.

Raschker, a 63-year-old tax accountant from Marietta, Ga., won her first event of the World Masters Indoor Athletics Championships Monday at the Tournament Capital Centre.

Raschker captured gold in the women's 60-64 pentathlon, comprised of the 60-metre hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800m. She finished first in four of the five events, and was third in the shot put.

But winning is nothing new to Raschker. She came into the this week's meet as the defending indoor champion in nine events - the 60m, 60m hurdles, 200m, 400m, high jump, long jump, triple jump, pole vault and pentathlon.

She's basically the best-known masters athlete in the world - and has been featured in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd section at least four times.

She loves the attention, because it's also attention for masters athletics, which can sometimes be looked over in the grand scheme of things.

"Any publicity . . . it is so important to our program," said Raschker, who was born in Hamburg, Germany, but moved Stateside when she was in her 20s. "The media is very incredible for us."

Raschker's accomplishments on the track have garnered her plenty of recognition - she twice has been a finalist for the Sullivan Award, which is given annually to the U.S.'s top amateur athlete. In 2003, she was in the top five but lost to swimmer Michael Phelps and, in 2008, she was runner-up to Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow.

"That was extremely meaningful for me," said Raschker, the first masters athlete to ever be a finalist for the award. "When you go for the Sullivan Award, you are basically 20, 25 years old. Here I was, close to 60 - and all the sports are involved."

Heading into this meet, Raschker held 64 world records, and has broken more than 200 world and U.S. records since turning 50.

She was always a pretty good athlete, but really has found a niche in masters track and field, where she expanded her field of events.

"When I was back in Germany, I just did the 100 and 200 (metres)," she said. "I got bored - I guess it's a sprinter's mentality, I can't go for miles so I need to have something going on.

"So I added this event and that event and, all of a sudden, I find myself doing nine or 10 events."

She absolutely loves it, and has no plans to stop.

"What is really helpful is that we are breaking it down into five-year age groups, so you're always reaching for something new," Raschker said. "It's extremely helpful to have this goal out there and to not get complacent about it.

"I can't wait to turn 65 - that's my next big goal . . . I'll have new records to break."

The championships continue through Saturday at the TCC.

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca

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