Surfski ace Oscar Chalupsky (50) was put through his paces at the Prime Human Performance Institute just hours before he jetted off to Hawaii for the defence of his title in the gruelling Molokai Challenge, with the sport medicine experts agreeing that he is in remarkable shape for an athlete entering his sixth decade.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts collated the data from a stringent set of tests and concluded that Chalupsky was at a level of fitness expected from Olympic athletes half his age.
After a vigorous workout on a kayak ergonometer, Chalupsky returned a VO2 max score of 55 mls of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute, and a ventilatory threshold (or lactate turnpoint) of 84% of his VO2 max score.
“Average athletes score between 40 and 50 on their VO2, and elite Olympic athletes have tested in the range 55 to 67,” said Dr Roberts. “Similarly, his threshold score of 84% is at the top end of the scale for elite athletes in their prime, where excellent scores are between 70% and 90%.”
Roberts conceded that he had never seen results like these from a 50-year-old athlete. “It is pretty exceptional for a 50 year old athlete to have a level of fitness like this,” he said.
Athletes generally peak between 25 and 30, after which there tends to be a five percent per year decrease in their scores for these tests,” he explained.
Chalupsky has been on a rigorous training schedule in preparation for his Molokai title defence, which includes running to his gym daily, training in a sauna before swimming, spinning and then running back to his Mount Edgecombe home.
His daily routine often includes a 52km paddle designed to replicate the distance of the race, with the intense heat and humidity being simulated by wearing three thermal tops and a rainjacket.
Chalupsky bucks convention by drinking very little on his training sessions and opting to push himself physically by adding extremes of heat and discomfort. Roberts noted that there was a strong new shift in sport science suggesting that training in these extremes, including depriving the body of fluids and sugar, contributed to better conditioning for endurance events.
“He is an unusual athlete for sure, and his fitness, together with the technical skills and mental strength that is a character trait of his, will make him very competitive on this year’s Molokai.” said Roberts.
“Technique is critical,” said Chalupsky. “There are roughly 26,000 paddle strokes on a typical Molokai. I am generally happy with about 20,000 of those, particularly at the end of the race when everyone is tired.”
The Molokai Challenge takes place on 19 May over 52km from Kaluakoi resort on the island of Molokai across the open water of the Kaiwi Channel to Hawaii Kai Town Centre on the island of Oahu.