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Paragliding grandma defies gravity and age

At 101, great, great grandmother May Hardison of Utah, celebrated a new world record Tuesday: the 'Oldest Female to Paraglide Tandem.' 

By Josh LoftinAssociated Press / March 20, 2012

101- year-old Mary Hardison of Ogden, Utah, glides to a gentle landing after flying hundreds of feet in the the air with an instructor. Hardison of Ogden is officially the oldest female to paraglide tandem. Hardison decided to paraglide because her 75-year-old son was doing it as a hobby, and she says she couldn't let him do something she didn't at least try.

Jeremy Castellano/KSL/AP

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Salt Lake City, Utah

A 101-year-old Utah woman who ushered in her birthday with a tandem paraglide ride last year will soar into the record books Tuesday.

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Great-great grandmother Mary Hardison has been officially recognized as the "Oldest Female to Paraglide Tandem" by Guinness World Records. She has supplanted a 100-year-old woman from Cyprus who took her flight in 2007.

Hardison flew with an instructor on Sept. 1, 2011, while four generations of her family watched and cheered. The flight went smoothly and even included a few tricks that Hardison encouraged.

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In a questionnaire submitted to Guinness, Hardison said she wanted to paraglide because her 75-year-old son began doing it as a hobby. She did not return a phone call from The Associated Press.

"I didn't want him to do something that I couldn't do," Hardison said.

Fear never entered the equation for Hardison, who previously rode all of the adult rides at Disneyland to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Hardison told Guinness there was no reason for her to be nervous about paragliding because many other people have done it without any problems.

"If it's safe for them, then it's safe for me," she said.

Her actions have inspired others. Hardison said some family members and friends have already signed up for their own paragliding adventure.

While she is "humbled" by her record, she hopes it doesn't stand.

"My desire is for the elderly to keep on going. Do things as long as you are physically able," Hardison said. "Be positive. Friends don't like a grumpy person."

When Hardison decided to take the birthday leap, family members were concerned for her safety. After all, it was her first flight and she was the oldest customer the paragliding company had ever taken into the air.

"My initial reaction was 'No, you can't let her,'" granddaughter Diane Swain told KSL-TV in Salt Lake City.

"Then I thought, 'No, I know my grandma well enough to know that it if she wants to do it, she's going to do it.'"

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