One-hundred-percent life,

[b]or centenarian Nikolay Nelga’s secret for spiritual and physical strength[/b]“When I was 90, I wondered what it would feel like to be 100,” muses Nikolay Nelga, calculating another sophisticated combination in our billiard game. Like a true master, he thoroughly checks the path of the ball, takes accurate aim and then pots confidently. He looks around for a new position and, soon, a second stroke reaches its goal. “A bank shot!” he exclaims. It’s his third game of the day. “How do you feel on crossing your centenary” I ask, somewhat despairing of my chances. “It’s nothing special,” Mr. Nelga responds with a slight smile. “As you see, life continues. I’ve kept to my previous regime of work and physical exercise and I feel quite comfortable.”Young people at the next table exchange glances in surprise. They’ve overheard our conversation and can’t believe that this cheerful, elderly man is really 100 years old. Even I can’t fully believe it. Mr. Nelga doesn’t meet my stereotype of how a century-old person should appear.
or centenarian Nikolay Nelga’s secret for spiritual and physical strength

“When I was 90, I wondered what it would feel like to be 100,” muses Nikolay Nelga, calculating another sophisticated combination in our billiard game. Like a true master, he thoroughly checks the path of the ball, takes accurate aim and then pots confidently. He looks around for a new position and, soon, a second stroke reaches its goal. “A bank shot!” he exclaims. It’s his third game of the day. “How do you feel on crossing your centenary” I ask, somewhat despairing of my chances. “It’s nothing special,” Mr. Nelga responds with a slight smile. “As you see, life continues. I’ve kept to my previous regime of work and physical exercise and I feel quite comfortable.”
Young people at the next table exchange glances in surprise. They’ve overheard our conversation and can’t believe that this cheerful, elderly man is really 100 years old. Even I can’t fully believe it. Mr. Nelga doesn’t meet my stereotype of how a century-old person should appear.
I used to think exercise was a waste of time and would be reluctant to even do some morning stretches, let alone visit the gym. Now I’ve met Mr. Nelga, I’m changing my mind. He doesn’t see his age as anything extraordinary. He continues to go to the billiard club two or three times a week and does physical exercises every day. Moreover, he has also written a book for his jubilee, confirming that a person really can live for a century. How can I not believe him?
Mr. Nelga has been engaged in physical exercise for his entire life: boxing, track-and-field, gymnastics and fencing. As a teenager, he played for Crimea’s national football adult team. He was only 16 (underage) but they made an exception, since he was so capable.
Our hero went to school when Russian Tsar Nikolay II was on the throne and finished after the October Revolution in 1917. To be more exact, he had to cease his studies during those difficult times, as his family hadn’t enough money. Nelga went to work when he was 13 as an apprentice; later, he became a tailor but realised that he wanted to dedicate himself entirely to sport.
Nikolay was determined to achieve his aim. He had boasted an ‘iron’ will from birth, studying by day and working through the night. As a result, he achieved his goal. Although he didn’t become an Olympic champion, he set some records. He has been playing billiards for 88 years. “I first took up a billiard cue in the 1920s. I had a good friend, whose father worked as a billiard marker. He taught us the rules,” recollects Mr. Nelga. He soon began to beat everyone. He still uses his billiard cue one handed.
I don’t suppose there are many people who have Nelga’s experience in playing billiards; surely, he’s worthy of the Guinness Book of Records. Mr. Nelga himself has no such ambitions. From his earliest years, he chose another path, training athletes since 1926. In the 1950s, he became a Rector of the Physical Culture Institute in Riga, creating a staff of teachers practically from scratch. Even now, the Latvian Academy of Sports Education keeps in touch with Mr. Nelga, viewing him as one of its founders.
After Riga, Nikolay moved to Minsk to head the Institute of Physical Culture. Without exaggeration, the ‘star’ hour began for Belarusian athletes. Nelga brought to life one of his most successful ideas: alongside coaches, he employed a team of doctors, massage therapists, psychologists and supervisors to support track-and-field athletes, equestrians and swimmers, preparing them for tournaments. The brigade accompanied teams everywhere: at performances and during every-day training. This collective approach helped us win medals. “At that time, many Belarusian coaches had academic titles and ranks, unlike their colleagues within the national republics of the Soviet Union. Later, many of our specialists headed to other USSR teams,” recollects my billiard partner.
In the 1980s, Mr. Nelga had to retire, but continued to develop exercises for the elderly. His daughter, Valeria, speaks about her father with pride, “He is a true ‘eager beaver’. I can’t remember a time when he rested. Even now he lives not only for himself but also for other people. He has led scientists into sports education. My father supported them, encouraged them to work and wanted talented young people to become involved in science.”
Of course, work helped him keep fit. “Do gymnastics, keep cheerful and you’ll live to 100 years or beyond,” Mr. Nelga cites the words of ancient philosopher Avicenna, anticipating the traditional question regarding the secret of his longevity. We’re talking after our game of billiards at Minsk’s Olymp Club. With a glass of orange juice in his hand Mr. Nelga reminds me of an athlete, resting after hard training. I ask him, as a scientist and a candidate of sciences, about his professional opinion regarding the secret of longevity.
“Few realise that we start to age from the moment of birth. How speedily this happens depends on our behaviour. It’s vital to regularly undertake physical exercise, since hypodynamia (diminished strength) negatively affects our body. I also recommend mental gymnastics: read, write and work intellectually. Use your brain and keep your interest in life. Of course, it’s important to elaborate a daily regime,” Mr. Nelga explains. He rigorously observes these rules. Valeria Nelga confirms this, adding, “Our father taught us to observe the regime. You may be surprised, but his hands are stronger than those of his ‘younger’ friends, who are 60-70 years old.”
I note with surprise that the passing years haven’t weakened Nelga’s sharp memory. He has seen so much, having witnessed all the major events of the 20th century; he can even recall an artillery attack on his native Feodosiya (in the Crimea) by the German Geben cruiser and Turkish Gemidiya, during WWI. As a soldier, he took part in the Russian-Finnish war campaign and was wounded during WWII. He lived in many cities and still receives calls and letters from every corner of the former Soviet Union — from grateful pupils and followers. “I haven’t ever heard my father raise his voice or seen him fall into depression. Courage helps him through life,” notes Valeria.
Mr. Nelga is indifferent to religion but adheres to the Biblical principle of treating others how you would like to be treated. Meanwhile, physical training helps Mr. Nelga to keep fit; it’s clearly paying off.

By Dmitry Alfer
Версия для печати
Заполните форму или Авторизуйтесь
 
*
 
 
 
*
 
Написать сообщение …Загрузить файлы?