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These Olympic Athletes Prove Success Is Ageless

·2-min read

There’s been plenty of Tokyo 2020 headlines about Hend Zaza, the Syrian table tennis prodigy who, at 12 years old, is one of the youngest Olympians of all time.

But there’s some striking personal stories on the other side of the age spectrum, too.

Oksana Chusovitina, a 46-year-old gymnast from Uzbekistan, impressively competed in her eighth Olympic Games last week. Chusovitina, who competed in a sport dominated by teenage athletes, received a standing ovation after performing in what she said would be her last Olympics.

“I feel very good to be here. But this will for sure be my last Olympics,” she told reporters. “I’m 46 years old. Nothing is going to change it.”

“I’m alive, I’m happy, I’m here without any injuries, and I can stand on my own,” she added with a laugh.

Then there’s Australian equestrian Mary Hanna, who at age 66 is the second-oldest female athlete in Olympic history and the oldest Olympian competing in Tokyo.

Through their efforts, Hanna and Chusovitina are changing the conversation around age and agility. They’re proof that you can compete or put yourself up to a physical challenge way past what is considered “your prime,” said Michael Stones, a professor emeritus at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, who researches healthy aging and physical performance.

“It’s terrific that this year’s Olympics includes so many younger and older athletes,” he told HuffPost. “They show that age alone is not an insurmountable barrier to excellence in physical activities.”

These Olympians also lend the games some experience and maturity, especially in team sports, said Sandra Hunter, a professor of exercise science and director of the Human and Athletic Performance Research Center at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“These older athletes can help mentor the younger ones, particularly with all the mental and psychological challenges that we’ve seen,” she said. “They bring a level of maturity to the teams and surrounding athletes that allow the younger athletes to learn.”

Below, we spotlight 10 older Olympians who are giving it their all at the Tokyo Summer Games.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.


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