News / Asia

    Oldest Olympian Shows No Sign of Stopping

    Pia SalmreMatthew Hilburn
    At age 71, most athletes have long since retired, but not Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu. Instead of watching the London Olympics as a spectator, he’ll be competing as the oldest Olympian in 92 years.

    Hoketsu started riding at summer camp when he was 12. He said he once grabbed a tree branch and used it as a riding crop. The horse picked up speed. It was a thrill that would affect the rest of Hoketsu’s life.

    “That was the first time I was on a horse when it cantered,” he said. “It was great. I wasn’t afraid at all. That was really the start of my riding life.”

    Hoketsu set his sights on qualifying for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. “It was my dream,” he said.

    He qualified and placed 40th, but wasn’t deterred by the outcome. When he was in grad school in the United States, he was so dedicated that he even convinced his reluctant mother to send his riding gear from Japan. And throughout his long career in the pharmaceutical industry, Hoketsu said he’d wake up every morning at 5 a.m., go riding, eat breakfast and then head for the office.

    London will be his third Olympics, after representing Japan at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This time, he will only be competing in individual dressage, a sport he likens to figure skating on horseback. Most of his competition will be decades younger.

    He’s made some tremendous sacrifices to be able to reach the Olympic pinnacle, telling Yahoo News that he has not seen his wife in over a year.

    He said he doesn’t expect to medal, but wants to improve on his performance at Beijing where he placed 34th out of approximately 50 entrants.

    Hoketsu, who trains in Germany, said keeping in shape is a combination of pursuing the things that make him happy and, of course, keeping an exercise regimen, which he said is usually about an hour or so of stretching, muscle and balance work after a ride. He’s also a little more cautious while riding.

    “I’m getting old, and I don’t want to fall off,” he said, adding that over the course of his riding career he has fallen many times. “I try to be a little more careful than I was before.”

    Despite his age, Hoketsu won’t be the oldest Olympian ever. That title goes to  Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn who was 72 years old when he competed at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.

    Hoketsu could go for the record and thinks he’ll still be in shape to make a run for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, but says it’s his horse, Whisper, who will likely be too old. Whisper, who Hoketsu rode in Beijing, would be 19 then. The usual retirement age is 16 or 17.

    Hoketsu said his immediate plans after the Olympics are uncertain.

    “It depends how I feel after I finish,” he said. “If I continue to ride, I can’t take a long vacation. If I don’t ride for two weeks, it will take two to three weeks to really get back in physical condition.”

    His advice for future Olympians?

    “Continue to do one thing you like to do. I think that is much more important for your life than getting medals.”



    Photo Gallery: Asian Athletes at the Olympics

    • Bronze medalist Choi Byungchul of South Korea, waves to the crowd during the medals ceremony after the men's individual foil fencing competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, July 31, 2012, in London.
    • South Korea's Jo Hyo-bi, center is tackled by Norway's Karoline Dyhre Breivang, left, and Lynn-Kristin Koren, right, during their women's handball preliminary match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Aug. 1, 2012, in London.
    • South Korea's Ryu Eun-hee, center, shoots the ball, between Norway's Goril Snorroeggen, right, and Lynn-Kristin Koren, left, during their women's handball preliminary match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Aug. 1, 2012.
    • Kim Kum Sok of North Korea competes during the men's 69-kg weightlifting competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, July 31, 2012.
    • A North Korea supporter waves a flag before the team's group G women's soccer match against the United States at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, July 31, 2012 at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, England.
    • Masashi Nishiyama of Japan, left, and Song Dae-Nam of South Korea, react after their men's 90-kg judo match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Aug. 1, 2012.
    • South Korea's Oh Jin-hyek shoots during an elimination round of the individual archery competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Aug. 1, 2012, in London.
    • South Korea's Chung Jae-sung, right, and Lee Yong-dae play against Malaysia's Koo Kien Keat, unseen, and Tan Boon Heong, at a men's doubles badminton match of the 2012 Summer Olympics, July 31, 2012.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: zatouichi from: japan
    August 03, 2012 7:39 AM
    As a Japanese,I resupect Mr.Hoketsu very much.
    By the way," Hoketsu" means substitute player in Japanese.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora