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Age and the Olympics – part 3: Remarkable performances at any age

by on August 24, 2016

Well the Olympics are over (happily we still have the Paralympics to look forward to) so I thought we’d look back at a couple more age at work related stories from Rio 2016.

We’ve covered some already (here and here, if you missed them) but luckily the Team GB success continued so we can report on yet more events.

After Katrina’s last post on this subject, Nick Skelton, who she had mentioned, went on to win gold in the individual showjumping. At 58 years old this made him Britain’s second oldest ever Olympic gold medallist.  According to Horse & Hound (I have always wanted to be able to type those words on this blog), the only person to win gold at an older age for Great Britain was Joshua Millner, who was 61 when he took shooting gold in 1908.

Nick may apparently be in contention for BBC Sports Personality of the Year.  I’m not sure it’s completely true that ‘the middle-aged suddenly found an extra spring in their step as they cherished the performance of Rio’s golden oldie‘ (this was according to The Telegraph) but what is remarkable is that this was his 7th Olympic Games, a testament to the incredible longevity of a sporting career at an elite level. As The Guardian pointed out, this is a singular record even taking into account the long careers in equestrian sport – particularly when you factor in that he broke his neck in 2000, forcing his retirement but fully recovered and returned to competition two years later.

At the other end of the age spectrum was a bronze medal in gymnastics for Team GB’s Amy Tinkler, our youngest athlete. As the the Daily Mail pointed out, she was in fact aged 16 years and 293 days and it was just weeks after taking her GCSEs. She still has the results of those exams to look forward to. I wonder if that becomes a less nerve-wracking event after competing sucessfully on the Olympic stage.

Looking across the whole Olympics (not just Team GB), the BBC profiles athletes from a range of countries and disciplines still at the top of their game. As the article says, the ‘lifespan for many sporting stars can be cruelly short – in few professional fields do people hitting 30 get described as “veteran”.’ Indeed.

Roll on the Paralympics.

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