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Australia's oldest athlete passes with her Olympic dream intact

104-year-old Ruth Frith passed away peacefully in February, but she managed to live her dream of visiting Ancient Olympia

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Australia's oldest athlete passes with her Olympic dream intact

Ruth Firth working on her hammer throw in 2009, aged 100.
Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt.

28 Apr 2014

Ruth Frith proved it's never too late to take up sport. At 102 years old, she became the world's oldest competing athlete.

The will to keep fit and active never left her, and on her 104th birthday late last year, she celebrated by popping on her exercise bike for a quick cycle.
Sadly on February 28, her sporting journey came to an end, when she passed away peacefully.

Although involved in athletics most of her life as a coach and a judge, she didn't compete until she was 73. She preferred training without the pressure.
She went on to win six gold medals and set six world records at the World Masters Games in Sydney in 2009 at the age of 100.

She then went on to win a gold medal in the hammer throw at the Oceania Masters Athletics Championships in 2010.

Almost as if she took the advice to keep fit in your later years a little too seriously, it was her perseverance and determination that created some of her life's greatest moments at such old age.

One of those was travelling to Greece for the first time and visiting Ancient Olympia in 2010.

"It was like a dream come true," she said about her trip.

"Standing on that ground at Ancient Olympia, I just can't describe how I felt. I felt so insignificant, humble. You just felt, 'well, I am really nothing compared to the ground I'm standing on'."

The realisation of Ruth's dream was made possible by Greek philanthropist Jovanna Fragouli after an anonymous Greek Australian made the nomination through www.postmywish.com

While visiting the ancient site, Ruth was presented with a crown of wild olive branches and a gold wreath by local mayor George Aydonis.
She also met the president of the Greek Olympic committee, Spyros Capralos, Deputy Mayor of Athens Lefteris Skiadas and Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, who attended a dinner in Ruth's honour.

Her longevity, she said, was down to her strict diet, void of any of the vegetables she had avoided since she was young.

She found it hard to find food she liked in Greece, remarking "I don't like things cooked in oil, and your salad was glistening with the oil. I don't eat vegetables and all that jazz, so I found that their food just wasn't for me".

Her character and personality touched residents in Brisbane, where just one week before she died, Brisbane City Council approved the naming of a park after her in the city's south.

Born in 1909, Ruth became an avid fan of athletics watching her father as a timekeeper at school athletics carnivals.

She studied to be a solicitor but gave the profession up when she married civil engineer Ray Frith in 1933.

Ruth became a long jump and throws judge when the family moved to Sydney in 1977 for the Pacific Conference games in Canberra and held many administration roles in the Women's Amateur Athletics Association of NSW.
She is survived by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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