John Whittemore (November 20, 1899 – April 13, 2005) of Montecito, California, has been credited as being the "world's oldest athlete". A long time Masters Track athlete, his last competition was on October 5, 2004, just six weeks before his 105th birthday. He threw the javelin and discus on that occasion.
Whittemore said of his unique position in the athletic world "If I don't drop it on my foot, I set a world record." Had he competed after his birthday it would have necessitated a new age division in a sport divided by five-year age groups, a situation Whittemore continued to train for. When Whittemore threw the shot put, earlier in March, (at age 104 years, 4 months), it was covered on Good Morning America on March 29, 2004.
The only other reported instance of a 104-year-old participating in athletic events was skier Herman Smith-Johannsen, reported in 1979 and that was not in an organized event. The current active claimant to the title is Australian Ruth Frith, who competed in throwing events at the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney. She was still active when celebrating her 104th birthday in August 2013. Everett Hosack, who Jay Leno announced as the "world's oldest athlete" at the time, famously participated in the Penn Relays and USATF National Indoor Championships at age 101.
Whittemore attended Santa Barbara High School, where he was a long and triple jumper, and graduated in 1917. He often described riding to high school on horseback. Later he attended Stanford University, where he played baseball and was an outstanding tennis player. He spent several decades competing for the Club West Track Club, which named an annual award for him.
- http://masterstrack.com/blog/003459.html masterstrack.com article
- http://www.trivia-library.com/c/senior-olympic-records-for-people-over-age-70-part-2.htm Trivia Library reference
- http://masterstrack.com/blog/003392.html Obituary
- William Oscar Johnson (1979-12-10). "Sports Illustrated article". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
- "Growing Bolder". Growing Bolder. 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
- "USATF NE 2002". Usatfne.org. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
- http://www.bridgeguys.com/WGlossary/WhittemoreJohn.html bridgeguys reprint of L.A. Times article
- http://clubwesttrack.org/awards.html Club West Awards list