It’s known that athletes hit their prime before they reach the magical age of 30. It’s that convenient number when every critic in the world suddenly decides that age has caught up with you. Any sudden dip in performance gives them the opportunity to call you old. While some are unable to last a few years after 30, some are able to get a few more years before their bodies can no longer take it. But for a select few, age is just a number as they defied time itself to continue their sporting sagas well past what mere mortals could dream of - carrying their nation’s hopes on their ageing but ageless shoulders.
1. Dara Torres - USA - Swimming:
At the age of 41, the American swimming legend became the oldest female swimmer in Olympic history when she represented USA in Beijing 2008 - and what’s more, she also won 3 medals. She won 12 Olympic medals in career which spanned over three decades and five Olympic finals.
2. Hiroshi Hoketsu - Japan - Equestrian:
At an age where normal people narrate anecdotes of their experiences to their grandchildren, Japan’s Equestrian legend Hiroshi Hoketsu was gearing up to participate in the 2012 London Olympics after turning 71 years old. His Olympic journey spanned over 50 years when he first started out as a 23-year old in the Tokyo Olympics of 1964.
3. Bernard Lagat - USA & Kenya - Track and Field:
Age does not seem to have slowed down 41-year old Bernard Lagat as he gears up for Rio to take part in his fifth Olympics and third for USA after narrowly missing out on a medal in 2012. The American-born athlete also went on to represent Kenya on two occasions winning Bronze in 2000 Sydney and a Silver medal in 2004 Athens in men’s 5000m Athletics. Competing with athletes half his age, Lagat is expected to reach the finals of the 5000m once again this time.
4. Michael Diamond - Australia - Shooting:
With two Gold medals in Trap Shooting in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and 2000 Sydney, Michael Diamond carried Australia’s medal hopes into three more Olympics and set an example for many others in his field. The 45-year old would have represented Australia for the eighth time at Rio - if not for allegations of misuse of firearms and drunken driving ruling him out of the event.
5. Oksana Chusovitina - Unified Team, Germany, Soviet Union & Uzbekistan - Gymnastics:
In a sport which demands the participants to be ridiculously athletic and agile, Uzbekistan’s 41-year old Oksana Chusovitina is a curious study for sports analysts and psychologists alike with her undying enthusiasm for the sport. She represented the Unified Olympic team in 1992 as a 17-year old in her first Olympics and went on to win the Gold in Women’s vault. She also won the Silver medal representing Germany in 2008 Beijing Olympics. Now she awaits qualification to the finals of Women’s vault after finishing fifth in the initial qualification round at Rio 2016.
6. Ryan Giggs - Great Britain - Football:
One of the most revered players in the game of football, Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs, put on his boots once again to lead the next generation of Great Britain’s footballers at the age of 38 at London 2012. For many high-profile players who preferred to stay back to enjoy holidays and fat paychecks, Giggs has set an example to represent the country at the biggest stages of sport.
7. Jeannie Longo - France - Cycling:
Despite a doping scandal which involved her coach-husband Patrice Ciprelli threatening to ruin her career, the 53-year old came out strong to make her availability clear for France’s cycling team. Even though she did not make it to her eighth straight Olympics, her 59 French national titles and 13 Olympic medals mark her insatiable hunger to win.
8. Leander Paes - India - Tennis:
One of the most decorated players in Indian Olympic history made his debut in the Atlanta Olympics 1996 in which he won the Bronze medal in the men’s singles. Paes continued to represent India for five more Olympics including Rio 2016. Despite his Rio campaign ending in flames in the very first round of the men’s doubles, he remains a symbol of perseverance and longevity in Indian sporting history. Paes has, in fact, hinted that he wishes to return to the Olympic arena when Tokyo 2020 comes calling. He will be 47 when that happens!
9. Nino Salukvadze - Soviet Union & Georgia - Shooting:
The Olympic stage has seen mother-daughter duos, father-son duos, brother-sister duos, but Rio 2016 is the first time a mother-son duo are competing in an event - 47-year old Nino Salukvadze represents Georgia alongside her 18-year old son Tsotne Machavariani. After winning her Olympic Gold and Silver representing Soviet Union in Seoul Olympics 1988, Salukvadze’s excellence has seen her enter eight Olympic finals as she carries Georgia's medal hopes in shooting.
10. Kristin Armstrong - USA - Cycling:
Hailed all around the world as the comeback queen after her recent Gold Medal at the age of 43-years, Kristin Armstrong has been a terrific example of how age is just a number when you have the passion and determination. She also became the first athlete in Cycling history to have won three Consecutive Gold medals in Olympics in the process.
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