Centenarians, a prince, Santa compete at World Masters Games

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - The World Masters Games end in Sydney this weekend having shown age is no obstacle to enjoying sport with a 100-year-old female shot put champion, a 101-year-old lawn bowler, a prince and Santa Claus taking part.

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Over 28,000 participants from 95 countries, aged 25 to 101, converged on Sydney for the seventh World Masters Games motivated by the sheer fun of competing in the world’s largest multi-sports event that is twice as large as the Olympics and held every four years.

The death of an Argentinian man aged in his late 40s of an apparent heart attack while taking part in a 21 km (13 mile) canoe marathon was the only incident to dampen the otherwise high spirits at Sydney Olympic Park, home of the 2000 Summer Olympics.

“I have loved taking part. I love team sports at the best of times and this is an opportunity to be part of a team in an international event for the first time in my life at the ripe old age of 47,” said Sydneysider Vicki Shaw, who competed in the women’s over 45s football.

A star of the games, which began in Toronto, Canada, in 1985, was 100-year-old Ruth Frith, a great-grandmother from Brisbane on Australia’s east coast.

She broke the world record in the over 100s age group for the shot put, and also took home three other gold medals.

Frith put her fitness and longevity down to training five days a week and not drinking, smoking or eating vegetables. She said she was also the only female in the over 100 section.

“As long as I didn’t foul I was going to win it,” she told Reuters Television.

Frith was not the oldest competitor in the nine-day games. That honor went to 101-year-old Reg Trewin from Griffith in the state of New South Wales who made his debut in the World Masters Games in the lawn bowls tournament.

“I’m getting better as I get older,” he told local reporters, despite losing 17-8 in the over-60s mixed pairs.

Another competitor in the spotlight was a Sydney man in his 80s called Santa Claus who ran the 10 km roadrace and 100-meter race barefoot, with his long white beard blowing in the wind.

Although the majority of competitors in the games were Australian, there was a strong international contingent.

Olga Kotelko, 90, from Vancouver, Canada, was described as the oldest known long jump competitor in the world. She was on track to win up to nine gold medals at the games.

More than 200 former Olympians were also among the competitors and even royalty was in on the act with Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik competing in the open 35-years-plus Tasar sailing event but capsizing, hitting his head in the process.

Prince Frederik met his Australian-born wife, Mary Donaldson, while competing at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The Games’ closing ceremony will be held at Sydney’s Darling Harbor Sunday, October 18, with a handover to the next host city, Turin, in Italy.

Editing by Sugita Katyal