Japanese Skier Katsumi Saeki Shatters Her Own World Record at Age 88

by Simon Naylor | Published: September 6th, 2023 |  Ski News

At an age when most people are settled into a sedentary retirement, 88-year-old Katsumi Saeki of Japan continues to defy expectations in the world of competitive cross-country skiing.

Saeki has broken her own Guinness World Record, set just last year, as the oldest female cross-country skier by competing in the 2023 Masters World Cup in Austria earlier this month.

katsumi saeki cross country skier

Katsumi Saeki. Credit: Guinness World Records. We are reader supported. We may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

From Japan to the International Stage

Saeki first gained recognition when she competed in the Japan Masters Championships in 2022 at the age of 87, becoming the certified world record holder as the oldest female cross-country skier. However, the octogenarian athlete did not rest on her laurels.

In August 2023, Saeki traveled to Austria to participate in the Master's World Cup, attended by skiers from around the globe. As the only entrant in the over-85 age bracket, Saeki was not content to simply finish the race. Her times proved competitive even against younger rivals.

Strong Showing in Classic-Style and Freestyle Events

The Masters' World Cup included both classic and freestyle cross-country skiing events. In the 5km classic race, Saeki clocked an impressive time of 26 minutes and 18 seconds. This pace beat out one woman in the 81-85 bracket and three women in the 76-80 age range.

The next day, Saeki completed the 5km freestyle competition in 29 minutes and 4 seconds. Again, her speed outpaced two female entrants in the 81-85 division and two more in the 76-80 category.

Testament to Saeki's Strength and Fortitude

Saeki's continued high-level performance has amazed spectators and fellow competitors alike. Cross-country skiing challenges endurance, balance, coordination, and muscular strength. Maintaining the conditioning required for races into one's late 80s is an extraordinary athletic feat.

Saeki credits decades of consistent fitness training for her longevity in the sport. Her dedication has allowed her to ski throughout the winter months year after year in her hometown of Nagano.

Eyes on the 2024 Masters World Cup

Setting a new world record last month has only motivated Saeki to seek new goals. She has already set her sights on besting herself again next year at the 2024 Masters World Cup scheduled for February in Finland.

Saeki maintains an optimistic mindset and commitment to regular exercise as keys to pursuing athletic endeavors well into old age. If any 88-year-old is up for the challenge of breaking their own world record, Saeki has proven it is her.

Skiing a Lifelong Passion

Backcountry skiing

Saeki took up skiing as a schoolgirl and immediately fell in love with the sport's inherent joys. From youth to maturity, skiing provided recreation, fitness, and self-challenge. It also connected Saeki to beloved outdoor spaces around her Nagano community.

Now in her late 80s, Saeki continues to express passion and gratitude for skiing. She emphasizes that regular activity sustains health and quality of life over time. Saeki encourages senior citizens to stay active physically and mentally in whatever ways they enjoy most.

Cross-Country Skiing: A Total Body Workout


While downhill skiing relies heavily on leg strength, cross-country skiing engages the whole body. It provides aerobic conditioning and improves endurance in the arms, shoulders, abdominals, and back.

Senior Athletes Continue Inspiring

Saeki joins other remarkable senior citizens who have achieved athletic feats in the past few years. In 2021, 97-year-old sprinter Julia Hawkins earned the title of world's oldest female track competitor. Last summer, at 105 years old, George Jedenoff of Utah stood as the world's oldest active skier still taking runs annually.

At 88 years old, Katsumi Saeki continues breaking boundaries and belief in what is possible in cross-country skiing.

Key Takeaways from Katsumi Saeki's Record-Breaking Story

  • At age 88, Katsumi Saeki continues to compete in cross-country skiing at an elite level, recently breaking her own world record as the oldest female cross-country skier.
  • In 2023, Saeki traveled to Austria to compete in the Masters World Cup, where she posted competitive times against younger skiers in both classic and freestyle events.