A Port Moody man is proof you’re never too old to chase a dream.
James Szakos is the oldest person to achieve a headstand. He's 87, and he recently received confirmation of his status from the Guinness Book of World Records.
It's not an accomplishment Szakos' daughter, Andrea, ever imagined for her father, who hurt his back while removing a tree from the yard of the family's home more than 40 years ago and was told by his doctor he'll "never be the same."
But it was just that dour prognosis that set Szakos on his journey to Guinness fame.
Andrea Szakos said her father took it as a challenge and when a physiotherapist recommended a rigorous regime of daily exercise might move him back to full health, he embraced it fully.
"He really believes in daily exercise every morning," she said. "He's in incredible shape."
James Szakos said he didn't feel he had any other choice.
He walks everywhere, cycles, swims and does exercises on the floor of his Suter Brook home.
He's also pretty good at executing headstands, Andrea said. In fact, he's even done them on a paddleboard in the water when he was 80 years old.
So when a family friend noticed an online article about an 86-year-old senior who'd just claimed the world record for oldest headstander, James was enthralled.
"You know I can do it," he said. "I want to set the world record."
Szakos, who came to Canada after fleeing the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and built his family in Ontario before heading west four years ago, trained for two months while Andrea researched the process and procedures for claiming a world record.
She discovered her father would have to refine his technique, supporting his headstand with the palms of his hands rather than his fingertips as he’d been doing for so many years. He'd also have to hold his legs straighter.
When the big day came June 16, a crew of independent witnesses gathered in an Anmore home to document Szakos' attempt. A yoga instructor was on hand to verify his technique, a phys-ed teacher was enlisted to operate the stopwatch and even a police officer was invited to add an air of authority to the proceeding, that was also recorded and photographed.
"It was very exciting," Andrea said. "We knew he could do it."
In fact, Szakos crushed it.
While Guinness required a successful headstand to last only 15 seconds, he held his for one minute and 13 seconds because he doesn't want to see his feat eclipsed by some upstart 90-year-old.
"I could have gone longer," Szakos said. "But my daughter said that was enough. She thought I was going to get dizzy or something."
Andrea said her father is always trying to set a good example for his children and grandchildren.
"He encourages people to be their best," she said.
Szakos recently received his certificate from Guinness authenticating his record, more than three months after Andrea had submitted all the required documentation. He said opening the envelope brought tears to his eyes. He treated his whole family to a celebratory dinner.
"I would never have dreamed I would be in the world book of records," Szakos said. "This is a great feeling."
But not just for him, added Andrea.
"At 87 to set a goal and work towards it, we're very proud of him," she said. "He's like a local celebrity now."