Olympian and Masters Star Djan Madruga, Now 65, is Showing That Elite Performance Has Lifelong Potential

Djan Madruga

Olympian Djan Madruga, now 65, is Showing That Elite Performance Has Lifelong Potential

Djan Madruga (Brazil) recently closed out the World Aquatics Masters Championships in world class fashion, winning five events:  

  • 400 Freestyle – 4:53.44 (World Championship Record)
  • 800 Freestyle – 10:05.77 (World Championship Record)
  • 400 IM – 5:38.81 (World Championship Record)
  • 200 IM – 2:39.27
  • 200 Backstroke – 2:37.68

This effort was directly on the heels of the combination of his national and world record setting performances last summer  in the 400, 800 and 1500 free events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and at the U.S. Masters Championships in Sarasota.  

But, what is really going on here? Get this. Madruga’s age group is… 65-69.  

These are more than results and victories. Madruga, a bronze medalist in the 800 freestyle relay at the 1980 Olympic Games, is causing a major rethink of long-held beliefs and established norms concerning high performance training, age group “barriers” and what  many thought was not possible. 

Madruga’s times don’t “fit” his age. And he is getting faster and faster training only at a half-peak, half program of only swimming, with no dryland training or facilities that are available to many other  swimmers around the world.  

Some say age is just a number. Madruga shows world and championship records every decade are also.  

What Madruga is demonstrating is that because athletes reach a certain age numerically, it  doesn’t mean they can’t be in world-class shape or that their high performance has to significantly degrade. Madruga is proving that high performance at world-class levels in multiple  events is possible decade after decade after decade.

He’s done it and continues to prove it. That’s good news for everybody.  

Michael Phelps famously stated after the Athens 2004 Olympics: “I want to change the sport of  swimming.” Rightfully so. Well done. Madruga has significantly contributed to that effort, changing established perceptions of what is possible. His impact now cannot be ignored.  

Madruga’s results over the past few years have disrupted kinesiology and physiology university departments in Japan, Europe, North America and elsewhere, causing reactions of whistles and rolling eyes with his times being competitive with swimmers many times 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years younger than he is.  

Only Half the Story 

Madruga’s multiple world records last summer and his multiple World Aquatics Masters Championship records this year are only half the story when it comes to world-class peak human performance (PHP).  

It can be debated that his world and championship records (as fast as they are) in his 65-69 year old age group are not his best times that he is capable of doing now. He could still improve them significantly. Currently, that is a hot, on-going argument between Djan’s humility versus various kinesiology  experts, high performance directors, national coaches and world opinion.  

Why?  

Madruga has not had the benefit of the access to equipment and facilities for dryland training like he had back at Indiana University where he trained under U.S. Olympic coach Dr. James E. (Doc)  Counsilman and Olympic and assistant head coach Jan Prins. Those coaching titles matter to understand things. It reflects  the level of coaching/training, science and access to kinesiology/physiology experts and managers Madruga has had.  

Now, Madruga is training only with swimming workouts and mostly training on his own. If Madruga had the  benefits of daily, weekly or a full seasonal dryland program to match his swimming sessions with the  benefits of being part of a top-tier team, there is no telling  where those records would actually be now.  

Thoroughbred race horses have to run with thoroughbred race horses. 

As sport high performance directors argue and contemplate the dynamics, it’s scary and motivating at the same time to think about it.  

There’s a lot to discuss now about what is happening, and it’s good news for everyone.  

New Dynamics 

Is Madruga an exceptional athlete? Yes, an Olympic medalist. Or, is he demonstrating what is possible  for everyone? A little of both.  

He is showing the world:  

First. These bodies, these machines, are meant to be in top physical shape every decade of your life and can be. 

Second. Top peak performance is not limited to your late teens and twenties, i.e., Anthony Ervin.

Third. You can get into world class shape any decade of your life.  

Fourth. Swimming is a sport that limits the damage done to joints through pounding like running, or other sports. Swimming is a low impact, high performance yielding sport.  

Take a look at 104-year-old downhill skier Klaus Obermeyer in Aspen, Colorado, who makes swim practice the core module of his daily fitness training. Others in professional sports are doing it, too. 

Madruga is globally well-known and swam in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics. He is a legend in his native Brazil. He has faithfully and meticulously posted his workouts, sets,  times, frustrations, setbacks and workout results – good, bad or indifferent – across social media regularly for each yearly cycle he has set, matched together with specific national or world championship goals.  It’s been important. Many analysts have been quietly watching the results.  

Breaking More Than Records  

Madruga is breaking barriers not just for himself, but leading the way for everyone. As they say, “The  clock doesn’t lie.” It is giving younger and older athletes hope, making everyone rethink aging, high performance training, where they can be and what is possible decade to decade.  

This is causing post-Olympic and/or national level athletes to assess what they should be doing each decade after retiring from professional or Olympic sports.  

What is the program now? Who’s got the plan? What should we be doing decade to decade? What are  the limits? How fast can you go now?  

Madruga is showing the world there is a lot more to sports in the later portion of your life than just your best times at your physical peak in your early years – and that’s mentally and physically good for  everyone.  

It’s time for athletes and those who want to be, to step up, get in and mentally reconfigure where they’re at in life. It’s time to find out. Barriers are meant to be broken for everyone.  

And Djan Madruga will be there cheering you on.

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Luiz Carvalho
Luiz Carvalho
1 month ago

I have known Djan well for over 50 years. An incredible athlete and friend. He has done a lot for the sport, always with focus, determination, and talent!

Djan Madruga
Djan Madruga
22 days ago
Reply to  Luiz Carvalho

Thank you my friend, it was an honor to go to the Olympics with you.

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