Meet Betty Goedhart, the Oldest Trapeze Artist In the World
The 85-year-old recently earned a spot in the Guinness World Records 2019.
Like many young kids in the 1930s, Betty Goedhart loved going to the circus. Every unique performance captivated her, but it was the trapeze artists who really stole her heart. "I remember seeing these beautiful girls flying effortlessly, and I recall telling my parents, 'Someday I'm going to do that,'" Goedhart, now 85, tells Shape.
But, naturally, life happened-decades went by and Goedhart never got a chance to fulfill her dream. Years later, for her 78th birthday, a friend surprised her with a gift card to a local trapeze school. "I didn't think twice before scheduling a class and thought it was the greatest idea-until I got there," says Goedhart. "I looked up at the ladder I needed to climb and instantly felt my knees go weak. By the time I got to the platform and looked down, my heart was beating so hard, I could see it in my chest." (Related: 6 Celebrities Who Have Tried Trapeze)
Nerves and all, Goedhart knew she was going to take the leap anyway-it was something she'd dreamed of doing for 70+ years. "The moment I took off, it changed my life," says Goedhart. "It was like something had been missing this whole time and I had finally found it."
Needless to say, Goedhart kept coming back for more. "I couldn't get enough of it," she says. "My kids and my friends were worried for a while (mostly for my safety, given my age) but I proved that I was fully capable of handling it," she says.
Now, nearly a decade later, Goedhart has continued taking trapeze classes four times a week and even travels the country performing with her crew four or five times a year. Recently, she was named the oldest trapeze artist in the world by the Guinness World Records 2019. "It's surreal to find a passion at this age that I didn't expect, but now it's hard to imagine life without it," she says.
ICYDK, flying trapeze is a great workout for those seeking an adrenaline rush and some upper-body strength training. But what does it really take to do such a physically tasking activity at 85 years old? "On top of practicing four times a week, I also do aerial yoga," she says. "It's a great way for me to work on my flexibility, releases tension in my bones and muscles, and really helps me hone in on my upper-body strength." (Related: 3 Types of Aerial Fitness Classes You Should Try Even If You're Afraid of Heights)
It also helps that Goedhart has spent her life moving her body in exhilarating ways. For starters, before embarking on her career as a trapeze artist, Goedhart was an ice skater. "I was 8 years old when I started skating with my dad who was an ice hockey player," she says. "I went on to become an amateur ice skater and competed in several championships across the country and stayed with that until I was 16."
At that point, it became difficult for Goedhart and her family to afford adequate ice time, a coach, and everything else that comes with professional ice skating. Later that year, however, a show called "Holiday on Ice" came into Goedhart's hometown and she knew she'd found a way to continue living her dream. "I asked my parents if they'd be okay with me working for the show for the next couple of years while I helped pay the bills, and they were very supportive," she says. "I auditioned the next day and the following night, I was on the show." (Related: Winter Workout with Strength Training Exercises for Skiing, Snowboarding, Ice Skating)
Goedhart went on to become a performer and traveled the country skating in different shows. For the next 50 years, skating-both performing and management-was her life. During that time, somehow, she also developed a passion for yet another unique sport: polo. While living in England for 38 years, Goedhart and her family bought a horse for their kids. "They didn't care much for it, but I fell in love with riding and found it to be quite therapeutic as well as a great workout," she says.
A couple years in, someone approached her and asked if she wanted to join a local polo team. The only catch: It was an all men's group. "I was the only woman on the team, and that was very unique for that day and age," she says. "But I was good at the sport and the men were very welcoming and treated me like a true teammate. It was just such a great way for me to stay active, have a hobby, and stay busy while my husband was traveling for work and my kids were in school."
Goedhart played polo on the same team for 15 years and has continued to challenge the norm ever since. Now, after becoming a world record holder, she's using her story to inspire others to do the same. "It's quite an amazing feat for a little old lady like me to have had so many amazing passions in life, and never be afraid to chase my dreams," she says. "If anything, I hope my story inspires people to realize that nothing should hold you back from doing the things you love. Age is just a number, so don't let it stop you from having the time of your life."
Catch a glimpse of Betty taking flight in the video below: