50+ Olympic Athletes Set Records and Defy Aging

July 23, 2012

Olympics may be a youth-dominated event, but there are some exceptional athletes over 50 who have defied all odds and have shown the world that they can compete against younger athletes.

Some 50+ athletes are even among the small fraction of the elite Olympic athletes who have been able to reach the podium. Since 1896 there have been 121 athletes over 50 who have won 183 medals in Olympic history*. See our infographic for a visual representation of the sports and countries represented.

Some events like gymnastics rarely see a competitor over the age of 30, but there are several events that allow people to stay at their peak longer and even to improve with age. Some of these events are curling, equestrianism, archery and shooting. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and athletes over 50 have also competed in the luge, fencing, alpine skiing, sailing and rowing events. Haile Sataylin of Israel made history when he competed in the men’s marathon event in the 2008 Olympics at the age of 53.

Thanks to the numerous archery events in the 1920s Olympics, Belgium’s Hubert Van Innis was able to win four gold and two silver medals at the age of 54 in addition to the four medals he won at age 34. There’s no telling how many more medals he could have racked up because archery was never again an Olympic sport during his lifetime. However, at the age of 67 he won 1st place in the 1933 World Championships. In 2008, Italian archer Ilario Di Buò won a silver medal at the age of 51.

At 63, Eliza Pollock became the oldest female medalist in Olympic history when she a gold medal and two bronze medals in archery in the 1904 Olympic Games.

Oscar Swahn, Olympic Athletes over the age of 50

Oscar Swahn. Photo Credit: Olympic Museum Collections

Shooting has been an Olympic event since the beginning of the Modern Olympic movement in 1896.  Oscar Gomer Swahn was a Swedish Olympian who competed in three Olympic Games.  In the 1912 Summer Olympic Games, Oscar was 64-years-old, and was a competing member of the single shot running deer team. It was there that his team won a gold medal, which landed Oscar as the current record holder for the oldest male gold medalist in history.

In the 1920 Summer Olympic Games, Oscar returned for his third and final time at the Olympics where, with his team, they won a silver medal in the double shot running deer division.  Not only is he the oldest competitor of all time, but he is the oldest medalist of all time.

Swedish pistol shooter, Ragnar Skanåker, has a total of four Olympic medals, three of which he received after he turned 50. He placed 2nd in the 50m Pistol event at age 50 and 54, and won a bronze medal at age 58.

The sport of curling was introduced into the Olympics in 1924, although evidence points out that this sport may have existed since the 16th century. Paul Savage and Russ Howard are both Canadian Olympic curlers over the age of 50. Russ Howard, along with his curling team won the Gold medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics. Russ turned 50 during his time at the Olympics, which makes him the oldest Canadian to win an Olympic Gold medal. Paul Savage is a world champion curler, and an Olympic medalist. He won a Silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Games at the age of 50.

Ian Millar. Photo by Franz

The equestrian sport was first introduced in the 1900 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, France. In 2008, Canadian Ian Millar became the oldest equestrian athlete to win a medal at the age of 61. When Millar competes in the 2012 Olympics he will be the first Olympic athlete to appear in 10 games.

German equestrian, Nikolaus “Klaus” Balkenhol, even managed to score 3 medals after turning 50. In the 1992 Olympics at the age of 52 he won a bronze medal in the individual dressage event, and a gold medal in the team dressage event. Four years later, at the age of 56, he won another gold medal in the team event. 

Hiroshi Hoketsu , Olympian over the age of 50

Hiroshi Hokestu. Photo by Tksteven

Hiroshi Hoketsu, along with his horse Whisper, will be the oldest Olympic competitor in the 2012 Olympics. At the age of 71, Hiroshi Hokestu has become an instant celebrity, and is regarded as the “hope for old men”, after qualifying to compete on behalf of Japan.

Lorna Jonstone is another notable competitor in the Olympic equestrian sport of dressage. She represented Great Britain in three Summer Olympic Games. At the age of 70, she is known as the oldest woman to ever take part in the Olympics. Her best results were when she placed 5th in the 1968 mixed dressage team event.

Oldest Male Olympic Competitors & Medalists

The oldest male to compete in the history of the Olympics was Oscar Swahn (Sweden), who at the age of 72 years competed in shooting at the 1920 Olympic Games.

The oldest male to compete in the Winter Olympics was Carl August Kronlund (Sweden) who was 58 when he competed in curling at the 1924 Games. His 2nd place finish also gives him the record of oldest male Winter Olympic medalist. Robin Welsh (Great Britain) was 54 when he broke the record for oldest male Winter Olympic gold medalist at the 1924 Olympics in curling.

The oldest male Olympic medalist was Oscar Swahn (Sweden), who at the age of 72 won a silver medal in shooting at the 1920 Olympic Games. He also holds the record for the oldest male to win a gold medal, when at the age of 64 he competed in shooting at the 1912 Olympic Games.

Oldest Female Olympic Competitors & Medalists

Olympic Athletes over the age of 50, Eliza Pollock

Eliza Pollock. Photo courtesy of The Chicago Historical Society

The oldest female to compete in the history of the Olympics was Lorna Johnstone (Great Britain), who at the age of 70 years competed in equestrianism at the 1972 Olympic Games.

The oldest female to compete in the Winter Olympics was Anne Abernathy (United States Virgin Islands) who was 52 when she competed in the Luge at the 2006 Olympics.

The oldest female to receive a medal in the Winter Olympics was Canadian curler Carolyn Darbyshire-McRory who was 46 when her team won silver at the 2010 Olympics. Swedish curler, Annette Norberg, holds the record of the oldest female gold medalist in the Winter Games for her 1st place finish at the 2010 Olympics at the age of 43.

The oldest female Olympic medalist and oldest female to receive a gold medal in the history of the Olympics was Eliza Pollock (United States), who at the age of 63 won a gold medal, and two bronze medals in archery in the 1904 Olympic Games.

50+ Competitors in Recent Olympic History (2000-2010)

50+ Competitors at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

  • Hubertus Von Hohenlohe (Mexico) was 51, when he competed in Alpine Skiing.

50+ Competitors at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

Shooting Athletes

  • Afanasijs Kuzmins (Lativa) was 61, when he competed in Shooting.
  • Susan Nattrass (Canada) was 57, when she competed in Shooting.
  • Libby Callahan (United States) was 56, when she competed in Shooting.

Equestrian Athletes

  • Hiroshi Hoketsu (Japan) was 67, when he competed in Equestrianism.
  • Ian Millar (Canada) was 61, when he competed and won a Silver medal in Equestrianism.
  • Laurie Lever (Australia) was 60, when he competed in Equestrianism.
  • Mac Cone (Canada) was 55, when he competed and won a Silver medal in Equestrianism.
  • John Whitaker (Great Britain) was 53, when he competed as Equestrianism.
  • Kyra Kyrklund (Finland) was 57, when she competed in Equestrianism.
  • Debbie McDonald (United States) was 54, when she competed in Equestrianism.

Marathon Athletes

  • Haile Satayin (Israel) was 53, when he competed as a Marathon runner.

Butch Johnson. Photo courtesy of FITA

Archery Athletes

  • Butch Johnson (United States) was 53, when he competed in Archery.
  • Ilario Di Buo (Italy) was 51, when he competed and won a Silver medal in Archery.

Sailing Athletes

  • Afanasijs Kuzmins (Soviet Union andLatvia) was 61, when he competed in Sailing.
  • John Dane (United States) was 58, when he competed in Sailing.

Fencing  Athletes

  • Jujie Luan (Canada) was 50, when she competed in Fencing.

50+ Competitors at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin

Luge Athletes

Anne Abernathy. Photo by SCA

  • Werner Hoeger (Venezuala) was 52, when he competed in the Luge.
  • Anne Abernathy (United States Virgin Islands) was 52, when she competed in Luge. She was the first woman over 50 to compete in the Winter Olympics.

Curling Athletes

  • Russ Howard (Canada) turned 50 during the Olympics when he competed in Curling and became the oldest Canadian to win a Gold Medal.

50+ Competitors at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens

Shooting Athletes

  • Harald Stenvaag (Norway) was 51, when he competed in Shooting.
  • Afanasijs Kuzmins (Lativa) was 57, when he competed in Shooting.

Equestrian Athletes

  • Ian Millar (Canada) was 57, when he competed in Equestrianism.
  • Jean Teulère (France) was 50, when he competed and won a Gold medal in Equestrianism.

Archery Athletes

  • Janet Dykman (United States) was 50, when she competed in Archery.

50+ Competitors at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sidney

Shooting Athletes

  • Bruce Meredith (United States Virgin Islands) was 63, when he competed in Shooting.
  • Afanasijs Kuzmins (Lativa) was 53, when he competed in Shooting.

Equestrianism  Athletes

  • Jorge de Rocha (Brazil) was 54, when he competed in Equestrianism.
  • Christine Stuckelberger (Switzerland) was 53, when she competed in Equestrianism.

Rowing Athletes

  • Aleksandr Lukyanov (Russia) was 51, when he competed in Rowing.
  • Valentina Khokhlova (Belarus) was 51, when she competed in Rowing.

Archery Athletes

  • François Latil (Vanuata) was 62, when he competed in Archery.

Sailing Athletes

  • Eduardo Farré (Argentina) was 57, when he competed in Sailing.

 

50+ Olympic Medalists (1988-2010)

2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing

  • Ilario Di Buò. Photo courtesy of FITA

    Ian Millar (Canada) was 61 when he won a Silver medal in Equestrianism

  • Mac Cone (Canada) was 55 when he won a Silver medal in Equestrian sports
  • Ilario Di Buo (Italy) was 51 when he won a Silver medal in Archery
2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin
  • Russ Howard (Canada) was 50 when he won a Gold medal in Curling

2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens

  • Jean Teulère (France) was 50 when he won a Gold medal in Equestrianism

1998 Winter Olympic Games in Japan

  • Paul Savage (Canada) was 50 when he won a Silver medal in Curling.

1996 Summer Olympic Games in United States

  • Klaus Balkenhol (Germany) was 56 when he won a Gold medal in Equestrianism.

1992 Summer Olympic Games in Spain

Olympic Athletes over the age of 50, Eva Maria Pracht

Canadian Eva Maria Pracht

  • Ragnar Skanaker (Sweden) was 58 when he won a Bronze medal in Shooting.
  • Klaus Balkenhol (Germany) was 52 when he won both a Gold and Bronze medal in Equestrianism.
  • Hugo Simon (Austria) was 50 when he won a Silver medal in Equestrianism.

1988 Summer Olympic Games in South Korea

  • Ladislau Lovrenschi (Romania) was 56 when he won a Silver medal in Rowing.
  • Ragnar Skanaker (Sweden) was 54 when he won a Silver medal in Shooting.
  • Reiner Klimke (West Germany) was 52 when she won a Gold medal in Equestrianism.
  • Eva-Maria Pracht (Canada) was 51 when she won a Bronze medal in Equestrianism.

* Results were obtained through Sports Reference.com and excludes 36 competitors in the discontinued Art Competitions.*

Related Posts with Thumbnails




Join the Impowerage Facebook Page for more articles, contests and discussions. All fans are entered to win a new digital camera and for every new fan we'll donate $1 to the CNIB to fund the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of eye disease affecting older adults up to $5000.


Previous post:

Next post: