Ninety-five-year-old grandma proved its never too late to take up sports

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Growing up in a different time, when sports opportunities for women were few and far between, Estelle Ritchie never considered herself an athlete.

That is until one day last summer when Ritchie, at the age of 95, tucked a heavy iron ball under her chin and hoisted it into the air, setting a new Canadian masters shot put record and proving youre never too old to take up sports.

Ritchie, who would add a national record in the discus later that day, died Saturday in Orangeville, Ont. She was 96.

She was a very independent woman, strong-willed, lots of fun, said her grandson Don. She will be missed.

Don Ritchie, a track and field enthusiast, was browsing through the Canadian masters records when he noticed that none existed in the 95-plus category for shot put or discus.

When I mentioned this to her she was very apprehensive at first, he said. But shes just the kind of person to say, What the heck, Im going to give it a try and have some fun with it. And she did.

Estelle set the records at the Canadian masters championships July 23, 2007, checking out of her retirement home for the day to travel to the event in Stouffville, Ont. She threw 1.25 metres in the shot put, and 2.33 metres in the discus.

It was an absolute blast, the old-timers that were there were very supportive and enthusiastic. It just ended up being a wonderful thing for her, Don said.

We see our grandmother through our eyes, we see her as getting older and fragile, we want to take care of her. But inside her mind she was younger and more capable and wanted to do stuff. The little kid came out that day. . . even though the 95-year-old body showed up for the event, he said with a chuckle.

To compare, the Canadian record in the womens shot put is 17.83 metres, held by Leija Tunks, while Carmen Ionescu holds the Canadian discus record of 62.72.

But as her grandson Dave Ritchie pointed out, many of lifes greatest accomplishments transcend measurement.

Times are kind of tough and one of the things I think is a thread through what she was able to do is, theres a challenge and theres always a way to overcome it, he said in a phone interview from his home in San Francisco. No matter how tough things get and no matter how far along we go, theres always something that can be done that we can feel good about, and thats really the challenge we all have for living these days.

Thats what Im pretty impressed with.

Geographic location: Orangeville, Stouffville, San Francisco

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