Five well deserving Olympic athletes over the age of 50 have walked away with medals at the 2012 summer Olympic Games. Their motivation, dedication and ultimate success is an inspiration to all older athletes.
The Coach in the Boat has done it! Lesley Thompson-Willie, the 52 year old coxswain, led Canada’s Women’s eight rowing team to a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics. This victory makes Lesley the oldest Canadian female to win a medal, the oldest female rower to win a medal, and the first Canadian athlete to win medals in five different Olympic Games.
Lesley has competed in seven Olympic Games, and medaled in four of them; one gold (1992), two silver (1984, 1996), and one bronze (2000). She also has competed in 16 World Championships where she won eight medals.
To her teammates, Lesley has the ability to inspire and to motivate members onward. Team member Andreanne Morin said that “through her voice, she can inspire us…she’s always been a very calm voice, a soothing voice, a supporting voice. And she’s brought us to where we are today.”
During the final few hundred meters of their race this Olympic Games, when pain surged through their body as they pushed onward, Lesley asked her team to “believe in themselves” and the kind of effort she calls “max plus”. Through her encouraging words they pushed onward to win the silver medal.
Three days before turning 51, Andrew Nicholson took home a Bronze medal in the Three Day Eventing team division for his country of New Zealand. Andrew, known as a “Genius Horseman,” gave a strong performance in the cross country division being the only member of his team to finish in the allotted time. He had an average performance in Show Jumping, where he knocked down only one rail, leaving him with four time faults.
Nicholson has competed in six Olympic Games, and medaled in three. He received a silver medal in the 1992 games in Barcelona, a bronze medal in the 1996 games in Atlanta, and a bronze medal this summer.
He is infamously known for his time in the 1992 Barcelona Games, when he and his horse knocked down 9 rails in show jumping, loosing the first place standing for his team. This year he made up for that, and it was a great victory for Nicholson who has made a strong contribution to the New Zealand Equestrian team.
Along with his teammate Andrew Nicholson, the famous Mark Todd of the New Zealand Equestrian team also took home a bronze medal in the Three Day Eventing team division. At the age of 56, Todd was the oldest rider in the competition.
Todd has won numerous titles and awards based on his superb Eventing accomplishments; however this Olympic Games Todd’s horse received time penalties in both cross country and show jumping putting him behind. In cross country, Todd’s reins came completely undone forcing him to ride with a loose rein which made difficult to navigate the course. In the show jumping round Todd felt that his horse was just unable to recover after the cross country phase, and therefore received time penalties dropping him from third place after cross country, to twelve place. In response to his performance Todd said, “I’m not surprised he (Campino) was really tired today. It’s disappointing for him as much as anything that he couldn’t show what a good jumper he is.”
Todd has competed in 7 Olympic Games and has received a total of six medals which include; a gold medal in 1984, a gold medal in 1988, a bronze medal in 1988, a silver medal in 1992, a bronze medal in 2000, and a bronze medal in 2012. Todd retired from international competition in the year 2000 taking eight years off before deciding to return to the sport in 2008. This summer Todd was hoping to bring home an individual gold, making him New Zealand’s oldest Olympic medalist, and the third athlete to win medals 28 years apart; unfortunately however this hope was dashed.
Despite the disappointment, Todd’s spirits were not down, in fact, in response to receiving a bronze medal in the team division he replied,” “It would have been very disappointing to have to come speak to you with no medal around our necks so we are thrilled. This is just about the best team I have been with and I have been with a few so to win this bronze medal is incredible.”
With a strong team behind him, Peter Thomsen of Germany received his second gold medal at the age of 51 in the Three Day Eventing team division. Thomsen has competed in three Olympic Games (1996, 2008, 2012), and has won two gold medals (2008, 2012). During this years performance, Thomsen was off to a poor start in the Dressage ring when his horse Barny kicked out with his leg. According to Thompson, “He was bothered badly by flies during the canter work and this must have been why he did that”. This put Germany behind, giving Australia the provisional pole position in the team event competition.
On day two in Cross Country, Thomasen was the first rider for Germany finishing with just a few time penalties. Day three in show jumping started off a little shaky with Thomasen hitting two fences, leaving the team with penalties. Thankfully for Germany, it was rider Michael Jung who help the team win gold with his amazing performances in all three divisions.
At the age of 51, Mary Thomson-King received a silver medal in the Three Day Eventing team division for her country of Great Britain. One of Mary’s teammates was Zara Phillips, the eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II.
Together with her horse Imperial Cavalier, Mary completed the dressage round well, finishing in 12th place overall. During the next day in the cross country round, she received just 1.2 time penalty faults. The final round of show jumping did not turn out well, as Mary and her horse received eight faults causing them to drop out of contention. Despite her show jumping performance, Britain walked away with a well deserving silver medal.
Mary has competed in six Olympic Games and medalled in three of them. She received a silver medal in 2004, a bronze in 2008, and her silver medal this summer in 2012. Mary has plans to compete in Rio 2012, leading her to a record breaking 7th Olympic game, which no British woman has ever reached!
These athletes have been added to the 50+ Olympic Athletes Infographic which shows all 126 Olympic athletes over the age of 50 who have won medals and shows what sports they competed in and what countries they represented.