Olympians over 30 years old are often overshadowed by teen sensations and twenty-somethings. But the 2012 London Olympics will have plenty of older, wiser and more accomplished athletes to watch at the Games of the XXX Olympiad. Here are 10 such Olympians, listed from oldest to youngest.
Hiroshi Hoketsu, 71, Japan equestrian
The oldest athlete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — where he finished ninth in the team Dressage and 35th in the individual Dressage events — Hoketsu retains his title as the 2012 London Olympics’ eldest statesman.
At 71, he is just months shy of becoming the oldest Olympian in history. That distinction belongs to 72-year-old Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who won a silver medal at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics.
Hoketsu first competed as a 22-year-old in his hometown at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He was an alternate at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and was set to compete in the 1988 Seoul Olympics but was unable to due to his horse, which was quarantined due to illness.
A graduate of Keio University in Tokyo and Duke University — where he earned a graduate degree in economics — Hoketsu had a successful career at Johnson & Johnson as well as Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics before retiring in 2002.
In 2003, Hoketsu started training full-time in Germany with coach Ton de Ridder. The rest is history — or near-history, at least. Hoketsu, along with his horse Whisper, will be making plenty of noise in London this summer.
And with any luck, Hoketsu will break Swahn’s record to become the oldest Olympian in history four years from now at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Giovanni Pellielo, 42, Italy trap shooting
While gold has been elusive for the 42-year-old Italian sharpshooter, Pellielo has been on the medal stand in each of the past three Olympics — winning silver in 2008 and 2004, along with bronze in 2000. He will face familiar competition in London, battling 2008 gold medal-winning 37-year-old Czech shooter David Kostelecky.
Jessica Crisp, 42, Australia windsurfing
At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, a 14-year-old Crisp competed in what was then a demonstration event. The prodigy turned into a world champion and will be making her fourth Olympic appearance in London at the age of 42, having already took sail in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
Meb Keflezighi, 37, USA marathon
A refugee from Eritrea, Keflezighi competed collegiately at UCLA, where he won four NCAA championships — cross-country, 10,000-meters (outdoors) and 5,000-meters (indoors and outdoors) — in 1997. Keflezighi is also a three-time winner of the USA Cross Counry Championships (2001, 2002, 2009).
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Keflezighi won a silver medal in the men’s marathon (2:11:29) — becoming the first American man to medal in the marathon since 1976. Four years later, Keflezighi failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics after battling dehydration and a broken hip at the Olympic Trials.
In 2009, Keflezighi became the first American to win the New York City Marathon (2:09:13) since 1982. He topped that time earlier this year, becoming the oldest winner of the Olympic Trials (2:09:08).
In London, the 37-year-old will attempt to run 42.195 km (26.6 miles) faster than his much younger competition.
Fabiola Molina, 37, Brazil 100-meter backstroke
The beautiful Brazilian gets nearly as much attention out of the pool, modeling her own swimwear line, as she does in the water as a world-class swimmer. At 37 years old, Molina has definitely still got it.
After enduring a six-month ban for testing positive to methylhexaneamine in April 2011, Molina bounced back to qualify for the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 1:00.74. This will be the third Olympic appearance for Molina, who also competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Ryan Bailey, 36, USA water polo
The oldest member of the USA men’s national water polo team is a 6’6”, 245-pound center forward. The 36-year-old Bailey will compete in his fourth Olympics. Bailey scored seven goals en route to a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, marking the first medal for Team USA since 1988. Overall, Bailey has scored 12 Olympic goals. He also owns team records for both the bench press (385 pounds) and fastest shot (54 mph).
Cadel Evans, 35, Australia cycling
“Cuddles” became the oldest post-war winner of the Tour de France, wearing the yellow jersey and drinking champagne down the Champs-Elysees in 2011. Despite a disappointing seventh-place finish at this year’s Tour de France, Evans enters his fourth Olympics in search of his first medal — looking to beat his fifth-place road race finish of 2008.
Misty May-Treanor, 35, USA beach volleyball
The 35-year-old May-Treanor and 33-year-old teammate Kerri Walsh are reigning two-time Olympic gold medalists on the beach. And the dynamic duo enters London with their sights set on a three-peat to cap their Olympic careers.
Being the best is nothing new to May-Treanor, who was USA Today’s high school girl’s volleyball player of the year in 1994 and the captain of the NCAA’s first undefeated team at Long Beach State in 1998. Since then, she has dominated professional beach volleyball with teammates Holly McPeak (1999-2000), Walsh (2001-09, 2011-12) and Nicole Branagh (2010).
But after suffering a torn Achilles tendon while training for ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars” shortly after winning gold in 2008, May-Treanor has finally started to show her age. A third straight Olympic gold medal, however, would quiet her few critics and be a fitting end for the longtime face of the sport.
Kobe Bryant, 33, USA basketball
The graybeard on Team USA, Kobe is the veteran leader of a red, white and blue triumvirate that also includes 27-year-old LeBron James and 23-year-old Kevin Durant. After boasting that this year’s squad could beat the 1992 Dream Team, the 33-year-old Bryant — a five-time NBA champion and 2008 Olympic gold medalist — will have to back up his big talk on the court in London.
Abby Wambach, 32, USA soccer
The second leading scorer in USA Women’s National Team history — behind the legendary Mia Hamm — was forced to miss the 2008 Beijing Olympics due to a broken leg. As a result, the 32-year-old Wambach is champing at the bit to run onto the pitch at historic Wembley Stadium, where the Olympic Gold Medal Match will be played.