EQN:Japan's 71yo Olympian primed for London
By Shigemi Sato
TOKYO, April 12 AFP – Japanese equestrian competitor Hiroshi Hoketsu, who is expected to be the oldest competitor at the London Olympics, insisted on Thursday he was still getting better at age 71 with no retirement in sight.
“I can feel I am still improving, if only little by little. This has motivated me quite a lot to continue my equestrian career,” he said in Tokyo on a brief home visit from his base in the German city of Aachen.
“I may probably quit right away if I feel I’m starting to get worse or I could not get any better,” added Hoketsu, who still undertakes 40 minutes of muscle training every day, including 30 sit-ups.
He said he hasn’t set a retirement age for himself.
Hoketsu said he may compete at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro when he will be 75, to become the oldest-ever Olympian – but if he did it would be without his mount, chestnut mare Whisper, who is already mature for a horse at the age of 15.
Hoketsu said he could go to Rio on “condition of multiple ifs” including if he can find the right replacement for Whisper.
The oldest Olympic competitor ever was Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who took home a silver medal from the 1920 Antwerp Games at the age of 72 years and 10 months.
London will be Hoketsu’s third Olympics, with his 40th place in the show jumping in his native Tokyo in 1964 marking an inauspicious beginning.
When Hoketsu competed astride Whisper at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he was the oldest athlete in any event and the oldest to appear for Japan in any Olympics – 67 years and four months. He finished 34th in dressage.
Hoketsu and Whisper, which came back after a 10-month break with a leg injury, won a dressage Grand Prix in France last month, the final Olympic qualifying event.
They topped the individual dressage rankings for Asia and Oceania to earn a spot in London, which will be a milestone in a horse-riding career that began almost six decades earlier when he first saddled up during a summer camp.
“There is something about the Olympics. There is something that has always attracted me to the Olympics,” said the 168cm rider, who has lived in Aachen since his retirement in 2003 as president of a US-affiliated drugs firm in Tokyo.
13 Apr 8:21 AM