She’s the world’s oldest gymnast, but Johanna Quaas doesn’t feel that way.
The now 94-year-old from Germany was crowned the world’s oldest gymnast in 2012 by Guinness World Record. She’s still maintaining her active, daily routine on the balance beam. She also regularly swims, hikes and dances.
Wearing a dark green, crushed velvet leotard, Quaas recently mounted the parallel bars, gracefully swinging her legs upward and smoothly transitioning from her shoulders to a handstand. She nimbly twists and turns her body around the bars to applause from a mostly white-haired crowd.
She travels, regularly demonstrating her skills across the country to encourage others to pursue healthy aging.
Returning to the sport
Quaas was born in 1925 in Saxony, Germany and began gymnastics at age nine. She temporarily quit during World War II because team sports were favored in East Germany. She picked up the game of handball instead and eventually won the Eastern German championship in the sport. She later returned to gymnastics after she married and had three children, becoming an instructor for young athletes instead.
At age 56, she began competing again, won a regional competition and has since racked up 11 medals.
Initially, she said she returned to the sport because of her passion for it. Now, she said it’s for something much more important.
“I do gymnastics to avoid being susceptible to falls and that is a good preventive tool,” Quaas told the Straits Times. She also takes regular naps and consumes a mostly plant-based diet.
“My face is old but my heart is young,” Quaas added. “Maybe the day I stop doing gymnastics is the day I die.”
Now part of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Quaas is not slowing down anytime soon.
A grandmother of two and a great-grandmother of one, Quaas recently told members of a senior community that the key to longevity is to keep moving. “You have to do your exercises again and again and again,” she said in Strait Times. “When there is movement, there is life.”