It's Seniors Week for the over 60s, and also next weekend the Masters Games kicks off in Sydney for athletes aged from 35 to 100. Peceli and our youngest son were both training for the Masters as they'd won medals in a Melbourne meet earlier in the year but with the time away in Fiji Peceli just didn't train and other things got in the way. But they will have a throw next week here to see if their distance is up there!
Yesterday I went to some Seniors events and really, I was a bit disappointed when I was given handouts about depression, nursing homes, diabetes, and so on. Hey, surely there's life after 60! Then this morning on the ABC radio I heard an interview with an athlete preparing for the Games in Sydney. Ruth Frith from Brisbane who trains with weights three days a week and will compete in the hammer, shotput, javelin, discus and weights events. Go Ruthie! She will win gold because she is the only one in her age bracket. She is 100 years old! So I looked up her name on the web and found a few articles.
-------The 100-year-old Brisbane great-grandmother plans to compete in five events. Holder of five athletics world records in the 95-99 years category, Frith has participated in the Games for 25 years, exemplifying the age-is-no-barrier ethos that makes them so special. “I used to go to the World Games around the world and everyone would say: ‘Ruth, you mind my bag’,” says Frith, who followed her daughter Helen Searle, an Australian Olympic representative in 1960 and 1964. “I ended up surrounded by bags while they were all out on the field. I thought, ‘This is stupid, I may as well join in myself’
(written last year)
November 07, 2008 11:00pm
WHAT does your average great grandma in her 90s want for her birthday? Ruth Frith wants a home gym to keep up to scratch with her hammer throw and shot put.
Ruth is a marvel at 99, a Masters athlete who refuses to act her age.
Grant Hackett has just retired as a swimming oldie of 28. Our super-senior citizen from Algester, on Brisbane's southside, is still competing.
This great grandmother of 11 has already enlisted for the World Masters Games which will draw an estimated 25,000 competitors to Sydney in October next year.
She is literally in a league of her own in the women's 95-99 age category in which her best throws for the discus (9.85m), hammer (11.37m) and shot put (4.72m) are all world bests.
"I hold five world records but, let's be honest, I'm the only competitor in my age group," she says with a smile.
"I'm the oldest competing in the world.
"You have to aim high ... I look at what those in their 80s are throwing and try to beat them.
"Honestly, I don't know what is so magical about being 99. It's just two numbers on a piece of paper and I'm still the same freckle-faced redhead I was at 98."
She is talking about the interest that has grown among a curious media over the past 12 months.
She's done more interviews than some Brisbane Lions footballers.
Calls have come from Germany and photos have been taken by a French news agency.
You are instantly taken by how sprightly super-gran is, her take on living life and her sharp recall of events through what most would call two lifetimes.
She doesn't just pick up a discus, fling it and claim a world record. She trains. Each Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday she practises her throwing after stretches to warm up.
We caught her yesterday after a 45-minute session on light weights and exercise bike which she follows three times a week.
It's the home gym bought for her by daughter Helen Searle (nee Frith), a dual Olympian who finished sixth in the high jump in Rome in 1960.
"My daughter asked me what I wanted for my 96th birthday. I said 'some weights' so I've got this wonderful home set-up where I can do my exercises," Ruth said.
"I just love the training. It's never a bore."
There's no heavy metal music to get her in the mood. A dreamy waltz or the work of Brisbane-bound violinist Andre Rieu is her taste.
Born in Goulburn in 1909, she was a promising schoolgirl athlete and hockey player when Don Bradman was still a boy.
She took up legal studies before the Depression stymied that career.
Married life took her around the country with her late husband Raymond, a civil engineer involved in the rebuilding of Darwin after Cyclone Tracey.
Most sports lovers talk of ending their playing days and moving into administration.
For Ruth, it was the other way around.
"I was always involved as an athletics official or referee but I became tired of hearing, 'leave the bags with Ruth'," she related.
"I decided I'd get out on the field, not sit in the grandstand."
She was already 74 when she contested her first World Masters Athletics Championships in Puerto Rico in 1983 and has not looked back.
In 1994 she was playfully referred to as the "up-and-coming Ruth Frith" when she broke a record.
"I've met so many wonderful people. Even when you can't speak the same language, you just hug each other until you catch up next time," Ruth said.
To what does she credit her vitality?
"In my era, kids lived a totally different life," she said.
"There was no junk food and I think it's the foundation set as a little kid.
"I'm a believer in genes too. My father had an athletic background so I was given a chance.
"It's up to every person to use their particular gift or not.
"Of course, I love the athletics. That's it."
This Masters competitor extraordinaire has never smoked or had a drink since an early sip of beer in her youth convinced her "it tasted like bad vinegar".
She feels like she is in her 60s and inspires anyone who might think they have picked up a bat, a football or a tennis racquet for the last time to reconsider.
She will also become a pleasant headache for Masters athletics officials in August. They don't have a 100-plus age category on their books . . . yet.