Local athlete John Disterdick will have a new title this year while traveling the world to compete in dozens of sporting events: Hall of Famer.
The Chattanooga resident was inducted into the Tennessee Senior Olympics Hall of Fame last month at a ceremony in Franklin, Tennessee. However, the induction doesn't mean he's ready to quit competing.
Disterdick, 76, has participated in a multitude of events for decades, often winning or placing on the podium. There's the 10 world boxing titles, more than 100 triathlons, rowing events, cycling races, speed skiing, swimming and more. He has competed in more than a dozen track and field events, is an avid runner and has won a slalom skiing race. He keeps a record of his competitions and finishes on his website. In recent years, he believes he has medaled more than any athlete at the local and state Senior Olympics.
"I could end up being one of the most prolific master athletes of all-time because of all the different sports," Disterdick said.
The multisport athlete will be traveling to Australia in September for the world triathlon championships before heading to Sarasota, Florida, later in the month for the 2018 World Rowing Masters Regatta.
Disterdick is unable to train specifically for many of the competitions. He doesn't have a sand pit to practice the long jump, a pole and mat for the high jump, or time to train individually for dozens of events. However, he stays in top shape to be ready to compete in anything. A typical day for him was reflected during a recent weekday when he took his dogs running at Stringer's Ridge, paddled for an hour and ended the day with another run.
The training and the competitions have become a lifestyle, but most importantly, he said, he credits his ministry as the primary reason he continues. He uses the events and accomplishments to tell others about his Christian faith.
Chattanooga also played a crucial part in Disterdick's success, he said. He moved to the city from California in 1994. Residents in his hometown of Northridge, California, were desperately searching for housing after an earthquake destroyed much of the area. He owned a home in both Northridge and Chattanooga — where he would visit annually to vacation. He decided to lease his home in California and move to Tennessee full-time.
"Chattanooga is so much more conducive to almost anything a person would want," he said. "You have all the water sports, the running, mountain biking, cycling, all the triathlons. You have several good boxing gyms in town."
BlueCross BlueShield is the presenting sponsor of the Senior Olympics and helped launch its hall of fame, which is in its second year. For officials, Disterdick positively exemplifies the event and the hall of fame.
"These senior athletes are truly an inspiration, and BlueCross is honored to support the recognition of these extraordinary individuals through the Hall of Fame program," said Lisa Wright, a community programs consultant for the company's Medicare Advantage team, via a release.