Two ninjas are proving that age is nothing but a number, after earning record titles for the oldest competitive ninja athlete (female) and the oldest competitive ninja athlete (male).
Ninja challenge competitions involve people of different ages negotiating obstacle courses containing challenges in the categories of jumping, climbing, swinging, traversing, balancing, and floor skills.
Both athletes, who have been working on their craft for years, are showing the world that you are never too old to pursue your passions.
Oldest competitive ninja athlete (female)
Seventy-one-year-old Virginia Lenore MacColl from Southport, North Carolina, has been a competitive ninja athlete for five years, making her the oldest competitive ninja athlete (female).
She first began entering ninja warrior competitions at the age of 66.
It was her daughter who initially inspired her to take on the sport.
“As I cheered on the sidelines for my daughter, Jessie Graff, on American Ninja Warrior, I was inspired by her strength and grace and how healthy she looked,” said Virginia.
I made a goal of getting stronger. I went to a personal trainer with a goal of five pull ups. It took me a year to get one!
Virginia had never in her life participated in sports or worked out with weights.
In fact, she says it took her years to even begin to consider herself an athlete.
But before she knew it, Virginia was engaging in cardio and strength training four times a week and obstacle training at least once a week.
“I swim two to three times a week for cardio,” said Virginia.
For strength training, I break it into push (chest/triceps), pull (back/biceps), leg, and abs days. And I train obstacles once a week.
Some of her favourite ninja skills include swinging on the rings and climbing ropes, while some of the more challenging skills include the salmon ladder and the warped wall.
To keep herself in shape, Virginia mostly consumes a Mediterranean diet consisting of fish and veggies, some chicken, and turkey.
“No dairy, no sodas, red meat maybe once a month, limited saturated fats, and limited sugar,” she said.
Before a competition, I make a protein powder shake with peanut butter and frozen banana.
Virginia often enjoys competing with her daughter, who she says is very competitive and hard to keep up with.
“It’s an exceptional bonding experience,” said Virginia.
“When you share something you both love, it brings you closer. These are memories I will never forget.”
Virginia says some people think she is crazy for competing at her age, while others are impressed.
She recalls a time when a youngster came up to her after a competition and asked her how old she was.
“I said ’71'. His jaw dropped,” said Virginia.
I said, ‘You think that’s old?’ and he said, ‘for a ninja.’
However, despite what people may think, there are people in Virginia’s corner who support and help encourage her.
In fact, Virginia says aside from her daughter being instrumental in motivating her, her husband is her number one fan.
“Even though he can’t travel for medical reasons, he encourages me to go to every competition,” she said.
I couldn’t do this if it weren’t for him.
Virginia is also glad to be able to inspire people all over the world.
She posts about her journey on social media and has received positive feedback stating that she has motivated people to get into shape.
Virginia was surprised to learn of her Guinness World Records title.
“At first I was confused with the date recorded because in my mind the last time I was on American Ninja Warrior was when I was 66,” she said.
Then Jessie said to me…that was AMERICAN, this is the world!!! And it dawned on me the enormity of it.
Next, Virginia would like to attempt track in the senior games, or maybe even CrossFit.
“Age and inexperience should never be a barrier. It’s just part of the journey,” she said.
Don’t say I can’t…say I can’t YET. Abe Lincoln said, ‘It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.’ You are Never too old, It’s never too late.
Oldest competitive ninja athlete (male)
Known as the “ageless ninja,” Dave Kozak (USA) is 76 years old, making him the oldest competitive ninja athlete (male).
He first happened to stumble upon the Ninja Warrior sport at the age of 67 and has been training and competing ever since.
He particularly enjoys the sport because of the comradery amongst the competitors and says the community is like nothing else he’s seen.
“I enjoy the challenges it presents,” said Dave.
I made no specific effort to establish any record.
Dave says being competitive in any sport requires an inner drive to achieve and succeed, and that rigorous training in any sport requires discipline.
Although being a ninja athlete requires being in top shape, Dave says he trains for overall fitness.
“I train for general fitness, strength, and agility at home five to six days per week, he said.
I train at the ninja gym one or two days per week for specific skills on the obstacle course.
Dave says the most significant physical requirements for a ninja competitor are grip strength and core strength.
It’s also critical to understand the body’s momentum: getting it, keeping it throughout the obstacle, and regenerating it if lost.
Early in his ninja career, Dave had a pre-planned surgery for total hip replacement.
A year later, he fractured his heel in a freak accident during a ninja competition.
“During both recoveries, I developed an understandable fear of falling and re-injuring myself,” he said.
The padding is always sufficient, but a mental block often limits my activities.
However, Dave doesn’t let his fears get in his way of competing and says the most interesting thing to ever happen to him during a competition was completing an obstacle for the first time after failing repeatedly in training.
“The adrenaline generated by competition added an extra boost to the effort,” he said.
It was exhilarating.
Dave says people are generally surprised to learn that someone his age is an active participant in such a demanding sport.
“I explain to them a body is capable of so much more than the calendar would suggest if it is kept active,” he said.
Dave was surprised to learn of his Guinness World Records achievement because he always thought there was someone older than him competing as a ninja, although he had never personally met anyone older.
He plans to continue his ninja activities as long as his body is able to do so.
“My next two goals are to compete on American Ninja Warrior with my friend Ginny MacColl as the two oldest Ninja Warriors,” said Dave.
And after that, to compete as the first 80-year-old Ninja Warrior.
See Virginia and Dave in Guinness World Records 2024 - on sale soon!
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