It's not uncommon for Olympic athletes to be young when they make their first trip to the international games. Most gymnastics teams are made up of competitors in their late teens, and the youngest person to ever compete at the Olympics was only 10.
But despite the stigma against older athletes, there are plenty of participants in the 2021 Games who are well past what's considered to be their "prime," changing the conversation around the age of the athletes.
Who is the oldest athlete at the 2021 Summer Olympics?
This year, the oldest athlete to compete at the 2021 Summer Olympic games will be Mary Hanna, a 66-year-old equestrian competing for the Australian team. She's been riding since she was 4, but she didn't compete in her first Olympics until 1996. She is the second-oldest woman in Olympics history, with U.K. equestrian Lorna Johnstone holding the top spot for competing in the 1972 games at 70.
In fact, the equestrian portion of the games holds many of this year's oldest competitors, including Andrew Hoy from Australia (62), Geir Gulliksen from Norway (61), Abdelkebir Ouaddar from Morocco (59), and the U.S.'s oldest competitor, Phillip Dutton (57).
“I’ll be doing my best to deliver," Phillip told Time about his decision to compete this year.
That being said, many of this year's U.S. teams are competing with the oldest average age of players in years. The U.S. gymnastics team has an average age of 20.8, according to AP, with MyKayla Skinner being the oldest competitor at 24.
“Being older, it’s just been awesome because I feel like with all the experience I’ve had, I feel like my gymnastics has been better than ever, which is super cool,” MyKayla said.
According to AARP, other senior athletes who will be competing at the Tokyo games include Santiago Lange (59) of the Argentinian sailing team, Savate Sresthaporn (58) of the Thailand shooting team, Ni Xia Lian (58) of the Luxembourg Table Tennis team, Abdullah Al-Rashidi (57) of the Kuwait shooting team, and Enrique Figueroa (57) of the Puerto Rico sailing team.
Who is the oldest athlete to ever compete at the Olympics?
Currently, the oldest athlete to have ever competed in the Olympics was Oscar Swahn. The Swedish shooter was 72 years and 280 days old when he competed in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, where he won a silver medal.
That being said, Oscar is not the oldest Olympic competitor in history. For more than 30 years, the Olympic games also awarded medals to those who competed in an art competition.
Starting in 1912, artists could compete in the Olympics by entering their work into one of five categories: architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. The caveat was that the art had to be inspired by sports. This was a staple part of the games until 1948.
This means the oldest Olympic competitor was actually British artist John Copley, who was 73 when he won a silver medal in the art competition's last year.