And the Neighs Have It … Oldest Olympian is Again An Equestrian

Mary Hanna Tokyo 2020 oldest Olympian

Mary Hanna riding Calanta at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: Australian Equestrian Team/Libby Law.

Mary Hanna has won the golden honor of being the oldest Olympian in Tokyo 2020. No newbie to the Olympic scene, Hanna, at 66 years old, is on the Australian dressage team and is marking her sixth Olympic Games.

Hanna is the first woman to claim a berth on six Australian Olympic teams. Her discipline is described by the International Equestrian Federation, as “the highest expression of horse training” where “horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements.”

The partnership of horse and rider suits older Olympians. Hanna, a mother of two and grandmother of four, is not the oldest woman in the history of the Olympics to compete. Lorna Johnstone, Great Britain equestrian, competed at age 70 in the 1972 Olympic Games.

Another interesting factoid: Hanna is 54 years older than Tokyo’s youngest competitor, Syrian table tennis player, Hend Zaza, who is 12 years old.

oldest olympian

Oscar Swahn of Sweden standing with his rifle during the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: Wikimedia

Oldest Olympian of All Time

The most elderly Olympian of all time, however, was not a horseback rider. Oscar Swahn, at 72, competed in 1920 as a member of the Swedish shooting team. Swahn competed at three Olympic games, including 1908, 1912, and 1920. He won six medals, including three gold in the running deer and single-shot events. His gold medal earned at age 64 still stands as the oldest gold medalist ever.

Equestrian events have been one of the few Olympic competitions that do not differentiate gender. For many years, it was this way. However, Tokyo 2020 added the mixed-gender events of judo, sailing, table tennis, archery, shooting, and the triathlon.

Oldest U.S. Olympic Team Member

Of the not very old age of 57, Phillip Dutton is the most senior U.S. Olympian at Tokyo 2020. Dutton, who also hails from Australia but now lives in Pennsylvania and competes for the United States Team, was a bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, making him the oldest U.S. Olympic medalist since 1952.

Before coming to America, Dutton won team gold for Australia in 1996 and 2000. He moved over to the U.S. team, beginning with the 2008 Beijing Games.

Dutton is competing in three-day eventing which encompasses the three disciplines of dressage, cross country, and stadium jumping. For a rider competing in “later” years, eventing is no easy task.

cross country eventing tokyo 2020

Cross country jumps at Tokyo 2020: (Clockwise from top left) Samurai Sword, “Dragon Fly Pond,” the Temple, and the Dragon. Photo: Cross Country App

What 57 Year Old Dutton Will Be Facing in the Cross Country

What Dutton will be facing in the cross country might not be for mere mortals.

The experienced and seasoned Dutton will be galloping through the Sea Forrest Cross Country Course; reclaimed land affords superb views of Tokyo Bay and Tokyo’s dramatic cityscape.

The course is two and three-quarters of a mile in length, will take around seven minutes, 45 seconds to complete, and will challenge the horse to jump obstacles decorated with Japanese cultural themes. Horses will click over jumps looking like a Samurai Sword, through the “Dragon Fly Pond,” and the Temple, and over the Dragon.

A spectacular satellite map of the cross-country course has been created to give you a bird’s eye view. Each jump can be seen via satellite. A click on a jump reveals a photo.

Looking to the Future: Older Might Even Mean Better

Dutton and Hanna have others to aspire to, such as Japan’s Hiroshi Hoketsu, who competed in 2016 at age 71. When asked if he would go for 2020, he said he hoped to, but his horse might be too old. Sadly, his horse in 2020 could not compete, leaving Hoketsu unable to try to break the record for oldest Olympian ever at 80.

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