116-year-old sprinter? How many news outlets fell for this fast one?

Think he’s 116? Got rupees for a bridge?

Don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The Times of India reports, with a completely straight face: “Dharmapal Gujjar, a 116-year-old athlete from Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday cleared 200 metres in 46.74 seconds at the 35th National Masters Athletic Championship. Born on October 6, 1897, Gujjar was the only athlete in this category, as others were younger to him. Hailing from Gudha village in Meerut District, Gujjar, an agricultural labourer, said he was fit and had participated in many marathons across the country, including the one held in Kochi last year. He won the 400 metres on Wednesday. … Stating that his co-workers were helping him financially to participate in the event and at times also by providing food, he said he had not sought any financial help from the government. His only disappointment was that he was not able to represent India in international events, due to paucity of funds, Gujjar said.”

Yup, sure. The reports fail to mention he’s also the oldest human on the planet.

According to a current list of supercentenarians, the oldest verified 110-plusser is four days short of 116.

Except for many reports of this 46.74, I see no evidence of him running anywhere before. (The listed M100 WR for 200 is 77.59 by American Philip Rabinowitz. In fact, the M95 WR is 48.69 by German Friederich Mahlo.)

I can’t find results for this meet. So who knows what 400 records our friend may have set.

About eight years ago, I reported the case of Joginder Singh of India, whose age was suspect from the get-go, and his “records” were tossed. (Still, his story was given credence by some.) A 2002 report said Joginder tried to commit suicide.

According to another report, the Indian masters nationals were to be witnessed by “Winston Thomas, Secretary of World Masters Athletics, Sivaprakasham, Secretary of Malaysian Masters Athletic Association and [A] Kannan, Secretary of Singapore Masters Athletic Association.

Gents, expect some queries.

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March 1, 2014

15 Responses

  1. Ken Stone - March 1, 2014

    Another giveaway on age: Everyone knows 116-year-olds wear Bermuda shorts.

  2. Cathy Baar - March 1, 2014

    “Age Enhancement” is common in India. The Hunzas (from the legendary Shalimar) who are famed for living to long ages for the most part do not have birth certificates. They exaggerate their ages because in that culture the older you are, the more you are respected or revered. This is a problem for Masters track competition because ages can never be proven; notarized statements of people who can “attest” to the age of someone 60 or 70 years older than they are are worth less than the paper they are written on.

  3. Cathy Baar - March 1, 2014

    The area I was thinking of is Shangri-La, not Shalimar.

  4. Ronald T Pate - March 1, 2014

    In 2000, a team of 30 athletes from India entered the WMA Regional Meet in Kamloops BC as guests and even though they all left India and entered Canada, only 6 showed up at the meet.

    Maybe that 116 years is calculated on a different calendar than the one we use.

    Don’t count on this record being validated.

  5. Ocean Eversley - March 1, 2014

    Love this story!

  6. Ken Stone - March 1, 2014

    Winston Thomas, secretary of WMA, tells me:

    He has a passport that shows he is 116 but it is not accepted as proof of his actual age, as Passports are granted regardless of of proof of age, so he is classed as 85+.

    I have seen him running for the past 3 years and I do not consider him to be 116 and I do believe that as the oldest person shown by the Indian Government is 117 and he is not mentioned in the 116 age group the the government know nothing about him, and I find that strange.

    So far WMA have not had any records submitted for him as far as I am aware.

    And I believe that the MAFI will not select him until they can concretely prove his age and this has not so far be substantiated.

  7. Quick Silver - March 1, 2014

    The Joginder Singh case was slightly different in that he had a UK passport which supported his claim. The British authorities are not, of course, infallible, but it seems to me that if WMA accepts British passports as proof of age from other Brits, then they are compelled to accept them from all, regardless of any suspicions. They may be justified in treating Indian passports differently, but then it should be the same for all Indian passports.

    Quick Silver
    Hong Kong

  8. Matt B. - March 1, 2014

    Hunza is in Pakistan, not to be confused with Uttar Pradesh region. Probably not the best example. Doesn’t mean his age is accurate but your example is a bit inaccurate.

  9. al cestero - March 1, 2014

    i heard he’s also an amazing high jumper…he levitates over the bar like it’s not even there…! :)

  10. Ken Stone - March 2, 2014

    Winston Thomas says he received this note from an Indian source, suggesting the sprinter is 99:

    This athlete produced copy of passport and voter identity card which mentions the date of birth as October 6th , 1914. These athletes are generally born in their village home and there was no practice of registration of birth at that time. Hence we have to depend on documents produced by them. To be more authentic we have to get a scan done by a doctor and find out the age on the basis of bone structure etc. which is not generally done. Hence we go by the documents produced by them.

  11. Stefan Waltermann - March 3, 2014

    Yeah, use dendrochronology and count the rings on his tibia. End of discussions!

  12. EricF - March 3, 2014

    Oh, come on you haters! He really is 116, but they are metric years, much shorter than our Imperial years…

  13. Ken Stone - March 3, 2014

    Let’s recruit this lady for masters track:
    http://aol.it/1pYCjFh She turns 116 Wednesday and can have as many world records as she wants!

  14. Jean Oglesby - August 6, 2014

    Dear Ken, Almost as weird as the 116 y. old sprinter from India is Matti Jarvinen of Finland who is listed on mastersathletics.net as having tossed the 3 K shotput 15.85 m on Sept.2nd 2008 at age 82 in Tampere, Finland—especially when you click on his name on the listing and see his picture come up. I tried to see if he had any previous history of world rankings in shot but to no avail. Would you know of any way to verify this?

  15. Ken Stone - August 6, 2014

    Matti appears to be the real deal, Jean: