First published on 27 Jun 2012.
She’s an athlete unlike Time Out has ever met before – a world champion in shot put, discuss, javelin and hammer-throw who rises with sun, does a couple of hours training with her coach and then starts making lunch for the kids. And the grandkids. And the great-grandkids.
She’s 102-year-old Ruth Frith, who’s about to add TV star to her shockingly impressive-for-her-age list of achievements.
On July 1, Ruth stars in a special edition of ABC’s Compass that focuses on the 100+ Club: an exclusive club with a simple social mission: to connect centenarians – those aged 100 years and over – with people their own age.
Formed in 1993 when a 102-year-old Zuckerberg-ian networker wished to share a cup of tea with a fellow child of the ’90s (the 1890s, that is), the club has since filled a gap in centenarian socialising, allowing oldies to reminisce without the risk of sounding like an ancient history audio book.
With roughly 130 members around the world at present, the 100+ Club is free to join, with only one prerequisite: you must have at least 100 years under your belt. And whilst the club doesn’t require anything spectacular of its members, many of these centenarians are nothing short of impressive.
Ruth might be the most impressive. At 102, Brisbane-based Ruth is the world’s oldest competing athlete, holding world records in each of the 100-104 age-group throwing events. Effectively nullifying others’ groans of “I’m too old for this s***”, Ruth trains at least twice a week with her 72-year-old daughter and trainer, Helen, a former Olympian. And never mind the fact she had a pacemaker put in five weeks ago; Ruth is back on the bike already, cycling and doing weights in her in-house gym.
For many this would be considered pretty amazing, if not miraculous, but the great grandmother is modest about her achievements. “Let’s be honest,” she says, “I’m the oldest member in the world of the Masters competing, so I’ve got no one to compete against!”
Age has done little to weary Ruth’s friendly-yet-feisty demeanour, and she’s as brazen as ever when talking about her lack of competitors (her closet competitor in age is 85-years-old – a good two decades younger). “I always tell the men they’re the problem,” she says. “They retire and they think their wives should get out of everything they’re in too! Well, I fortunately had a husband who didn’t think that way.”
When it comes to reaching the triple figures, Ruth says there’s a common misconception about centenarians. While she admits that her life has changed dramatically since her hundredth birthday (“I get more attention now than I ever did!”), she says little has changed in the last 30 years.
“Each year is just another year, and honestly I would say to anyone who is in their nineties that when you reach 100 you’re not going to feel any different to when you were 70. People think because you’re 100 you’re a different person; you’re a different breed of people,” she says. “Well, we’re not! We’re just the same; we’re just 100!”
As for her secret to reaching the century mark, Ruth says you’ve got to “just keep going”. “I didn’t do anything to get to be 100; I just grew into it.”
The 100+ Club airs on Compass on ABC1, Sun Jul 1, 6.30pm.