The Olympics may be thought mostly to be the preserve of the young, but there are some sports where experience brings an advantage. The Australian equestrian Mary Hanna is 66 – the oldest competitor atTokyo, her sixth Games.
Her teammate, Andrew Hoy, became Australia’s oldest Olympics medallist at 62, winning an individual bronze in the eventing after leading his team to silver. Asked whether age or experience was more important, he said: “Age.”
The Georgian shooter Nino Salukvadze, 52, is competing in her ninth Olympics, a record for a woman. She made her debut so long ago that she was representing the Soviet Union when she won gold as a teenager in Seoul in 1988.
Veteran status might not be a huge disadvantage when you’re on a horse or using a gun, but perhaps the most impressive seasoned Olympian at the Tokyo Games is Oksana Chusovitina. She turned 46 in June, and competed against gymnasts three decades younger than her. She won a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as part of the Unified Team that succeeded the Soviet Union in international competition. Having also won a medal representing Germany, she has said her dream is to finally win one for her home country, Uzbekistan.
Dallas Oberholzer, 46, said he’d finally impressed his mum by competing at the Olympics, but the South African wasn’t the only veteran taking part in skateboarding’s Olympic debut. Rune Glifberg of Denmark was also competing at the age of 46.
The all-time record for the oldest Olympic competitor is held by Sweden’s Oscar Swahn. He was born in 1847, and won two shooting gold medals at the 1908 London Olympics. He won another gold in Stockholm in 1912, but finished fourth in another event behind his own son. He competed again in the 1920 Antwerp Games at the age of 72.
At 13 years and 28 days old, Sky Brown became Britain’s youngest summer Olympian and youngest medallist at the Tokyo Games, but she was beaten by someone even younger. Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, 12, became the youngest Olympic medallist in 85 years with her silver in women’s park skateboarding. Syria’s table tennis prodigy Hend Zaza is also 12, and was the youngest competitor at the Tokyo Olympics.
The figure skater Cecilia Colledge competed for Britain in the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in New York at the age of 11.
There is some dispute about who is the youngest ever Olympian. Dimitrios Loundras represented Greece in the parallel bars at the inaugural modern Olympic Games in 1896, and came third as part of the team event. At 10 years and 218 days he is the youngest known medallist, and before he died in 1971 he was the last surviving competitor from the 1896 Games.
Photographic evidence, however, appears to show a medal winner at the 1900 Paris Games who was possibly as young as seven. He’d been swapped into the Dutch rowing team as cox after the first Dutch Olympic champions, Roelof Klein and François Brandt, realised their original choice, Hermanus Brockmann, was putting them at a weight disadvantage, and recruited the local boy instead.