Twenty-four years ago, Lorraine Tucker, 66, was not competing on the track-and-field circuit.
Her son was growing concerned about her 30-plus pounds of weight gain in six months.
“I was enjoying the food,” Tucker said. “I never thought about getting big. Nobody does at 42. And my son said, ‘Ooh, ma, you need to go exercise, do something. Stop buying the big clothes.’”
Today, Tucker is a different picture.
After almost 2½ decades of training and competition, the current Killeen resident is en route to Porto Alegre, Brazil, where she will participate in her sixth XX World Masters Athletics Championships, an international track meet for athletes older than 40, from Oct. 16 to 27.
She will compete in the 100- meter dash and the throws pentathlon, comprising of hammer, shot put, discus, javelin and weight.
Every day, Tucker is proving her son’s assessment wrong about her “hopeless” aspirations.
Living in New York, Tucker started doing aerobics with a buddy and sprinted the 100 meters on her local high school track. Three months after aerobics and heavy weightlifting, Tucker was in tip-top shape.
Her 17.1 seconds was good enough to qualify for the Empire State Games, where she won gold with a 15.1-second 100-meter score and acquired bronze in the 200.
In the 65-69 age group, she ranked 25th internationally in the long jump at last year’s XX World Masters.
“Right now, I’m closer to my throwing weight, meaning I’m strong, my legs are strong, and I can throw better,” Tucker said. “But you have to carry that weight when you’re running.”
While Tucker is a focused and undaunted competitor, she travels for more than the contests.
“If the place is really wonderful and a new experience, I do the place,” she said. “And if I have any time left when I get to the games, then so be it. ... It’s fun and games.”
Sixteen years ago, at the games in Durban, South Africa, she won a world record in the 100 for the 50-55 age group, even though sips of Cape Wine the previous night slowed her qualifying round, she said, laughing.
Tucker’s five grandchildren, including four track stars and a football player, look up to her.
“It means a lot, because she’s getting older and she’s very good at what she does,” said granddaughter Manesha Knox, 13. “It’s a generation, now. You can pass it down and they can keep going. ... You can count on her for anything.”
Tucker enthusiastically chimed in.
“And I help you with your homework.”