Meet the Olympians Who Prove Age Really Is Just a Number

If you think swimmer Michael Phelps's gold medals at age 31 are impressive, check out the accomplishments (and ages) of these athletes.

Thirty-one-year-old Michael Phelps won his 20th and 21st gold medals as part of this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro—impressive feats for a swimmer his age. But he's not the only Olympian who kept competing past what many would consider to be his prime athletic years.

This year's athletes include Oksana Chusovitina, a 41-year-old gymnast representing Uzbekistan; Jo Pavey, a 42-year-old track and field athlete from Great Britain; and Mary Hanna, a 61-year-old equestrian from Australia. Indeed, Rio is set to be a standout year for older Olympians, and it goes to show that for some athletes, age is no barrier.

Here are a few more athletes who made it to the games later in their lives. And if this inspires you to compete—no matter what your age may be—here’s more information about the summertime Olympic Games in 2020. You’ve still got four years to train before Tokyo.

1. Oscar Swahn

The oldest man ever to compete in the Olympics is Oscar Swahn from Sweden. He went to the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, at age 72 to compete in the “running deer” shooting competition (shooting at a moving object).

2. Arthur von Pongracz

Austrian equestrian Arthur von Pongracz was 72 years old (but a younger 72 than Oscar Swahn) when he competed in dressage at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin—the infamous games that Nazi Germany used for propaganda purposes.

3. Hiroshi Hoketsu

Hiroshi Hoketsu was the oldest Olympic competitor at the London games in 2012, where he competed as an equestrian rider at age 71. He also competed in the 1964 and 2008 games and qualified for the 1988 games (though he didn't go because his horse was quarantined). He missed the chance to become the oldest Olympian in history at age 75 at this year's games in Rio when his horse fell ill.

4. Lorna Johnstone

At the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, British rider Lorna Johnstone became the oldest female Olympian: She was 70 years old when she entered the dressage competition. Johnstone is also the second oldest female Olympian, competing in the 1968 games at age 66.

5. Lida Peyton Pollock

U.S. competitor Lida Peyton "Eliza" Pollock participated in the archery competition during the 1904 games in St. Louis, Missouri. She won a gold medal that year as part of the women's team when she was 63 years old.

6. Sybil “Queenie” Newall

Sybil Newall, a British archer, is the oldest woman to win a gold medal during an individual competition. She earned her medal at age 53 in the 1908 Olympics.

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