The world’s oldest living person will carry the Japan Olympics torch this month

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This month, the world is set to witness a unique world record be broken during the opening of the postponed Tokyo Olympics: on March 25, we are going to see the oldest Olympic torchbearer.

Kane Tanaka, a 118-year old Japanese woman, is primed to “take the flame as it passes through Shime, in her home prefecture of Fukuoka,” CNN exclusively reported on Friday, March 5.

Initially, Tanaka will be pushed in a wheelchair by his family for most of the 100-meter (about 328 feet) or so leg, but the supercentenarian — or a person who has lived for more than 110 years — is “determined to walk the final few steps, as she passes the torch to the next runner,” CNN shared.

Eiji Tanaka, one of her grandson who himself is in his 60s, said that “it’s great she reached that age and she can still keep up an active lifestyle. We want other people to see that and feel inspired, and not to think age is a barrier.”

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(A younger Tanaka sits at center, first row; Image: Junko Ogura, Emiko Jozuka via CNN)

Born in 1903, Tanaka is almost as old as the modern Olympic Games, which started in 1896. According to CNN, she has lived through two world wars and has survived the Spanish flu. 

Before Tanaka, the Olympics has also welcomed other centenarians as its torchbearer. There was Brazil’s Aida Gemanque who, at 106 years old, lit the torch at the 2016 Rio Summer Games; and table tennis player Alexander Kaptarenko from St. Petersburg, Russia, who carried the torch during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games at the age of 101.

Tanaka’s scheduled showing at the Olympics won’t be the first time she’ll set a record too. In 2019, the Guinness Book of World Records verified that she is “the world’s oldest living person.” Now, Tanaka sets her sights on breaking another: the record for the oldest woman to ever live, which is currently held by a French woman who passed at the age of 122


What’s Tanaka’s secret? Nothing makes her routine special, says Tanaka’s family, who also says that “staying curious and doing math” are her only secrets to keeping the mind sharp and body healthy.

Tanaka even has a Twitter account set up by her great-granddaughter Junko Tanaka, where the supercentenarian can be seen drinking Coca-Cola and enjoying cake. “I might be biased because I’m related to her but I think it’s kind of amazing — I wanted to share that with the world and for people to feel inspired and to feel her joy,” the great-granddaughter Tanaka shared.

Despite this unique feat, Tanaka shares her being a centenarian with more than 80,000 others. According to CNN, Japan’s Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry recorded that many centenarians last year, with one in every 1,565 people living over 100 years old. 

Tokyo Olympics will push through this year.
(Image: Kyodo News)

The Tokyo Olympics, which was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to kick off on March 25 with the Olympic Torch Relay in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture. 

To avoid curb coronavirus transmission at the event, authorities have asked spectators to “support with applause rather than by shouting or cheering.” The historic torch relay will also be streamed live online.

ALSO READ: Why Japan is One of the Most Charming Countries in the World


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