Summer Olympics Showcases Older Athletes

Summer Olympics Brings Older Athletes

Every four years we find ourselves riveted by the spectacle that is the Summer Olympics.  Watching these athletes, these perfect physical specimens at the top of their abilities, vie for the gold makes for a thrilling couch-side activity. I justify my inertia because of my age. The Olympics are, after all, a young person's game, right?

The 2012 London Olympics have plenty of older and wiser competitors to watch, certainly a motivation for healthy aging. In this year's team USA, ten of the more than 500 athletes are over 44 year's old.

While not exactly AARP material, it's pretty amazing to see older competitors in a sea of teens and twenty-somethings.  Not surprisingly, gymnastics and the 200-meter freestyle are not events at which you will encounter older medal hopefuls (not yet, at least.) But if you watch equestrian and shooting events, you will see plenty of mature challengers. 

The 2012 London Olympics eldest statesman is Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan, who at 71 is the oldest Olympian in 92 years and, along with his 19-year-old mare Whisper (also a senior at 66 human years), will compete in the equestrian dressage event. This is Mr. Hoketsu's third appearance at the Games, making his Olympic debut in Tokyo in 1964. He also harbors some hope to become the oldest Olympian in history four years from now at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The title of oldest Olympian is held by Sweden's Oscar Swahn, who was 72 when he won a silver medal in shooting at the 1920 Antwerp Games.  According to the sport and science resource, Top End Sports, here are some historical older Summer Olympic competitors

  • Arthur von Pongracz of Austria also competed at age 72 in Dressage in 1936.
  • Louis, Count du Douet de Graville (69 years old) competed in Equestrian at the 1900
  • GamesGalen Carter Spencer was an American who competed in archery at the 1904 Summer Olympics. He won the gold medal in the team competition.
  • Jerry Millner (born July 5, 1847) was a British shooter who represented Great Britain and Ireland at the 1908 Summer Olympics. He won a gold medal in the Free rifle at 1000 yards. At the time he was 61 years old. 
  • The oldest woman to compete in the Olympics was British rider Lorna Johnstone, who participated in Equestrian at the 1972 Olympic Games at 70 years old. 
  • In 1908, British archery winner Sybil Queenie; Newall became the oldest woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal, she was 53 years old.

Certainly as living advertisements for aging well, here are the some of the older Olympic hopefuls to cheer for on team USA:

  •    Shooting: Emil Milev, 44 
  •    Shooting: Daryl Lee Szarenski, 44 
  •    Shooting: Eric Uptagrafft, 46 
  •    Equestrian: Steffen Peters, 47
  •    Equestrian: Phillip Dutton, 48    
  •    Equestrian: Beezie Madden, 48 
  •    Equestrian: Tina Konyot, 50   
  •    Equestrian: Rich Fellers, 52
  •    Equestrian: Jan Ebeling, 53  
  •    Equestrian: Karen O'Connor, 54
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Comments (1) -

  • Katie, NCCA

    8/1/2012 4:22:32 PM | Reply

    Thanks for writing this great blogpost.  We shared it on our blog.  


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