Hiroshi Hoketsu at 74 Years Old to Qualify for Rio Olympics
 By Winniefield Park   •   14th Feb 2016   •   2,773 views   •   0 comments
Hiroshi Hoketsu at 74 Years Old to Qualify for Rio Olympics

A while back, I wrote about how to become an Olympic athlete. Most people, equestrians included, start out in their sport very early in life and their career ends as they approach middle age. They may become involved in their sport through school or community organizations and then from there, they move on to ever higher levels of competition until they come Olympic hopefuls, qualifying for long and short lists for actual Olympic competition. If you ride, you may work your way up through an organization like Pony Club, and compete in Young Riders competitions where you will learn about FEI rules and events. Generally, the Olympic village is filled with young people who have followed similar tracks in their own events.

One rider who may not fill the standard image of Olympic athlete is Hiroshi Hoketsu. If Hoketsu qualifies for this yearís 2016 Rio Olympics he will be the oldest Olympic athlete in history. He was the oldest athlete competing at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Now, in 2016 at 74 years old, he is well over twice the average age of an Olympic athlete. If he qualifies he will break the record of Arthur von Pongracz of Austria who competed at age 72 in Dressage in 1936 and Oscar Swahn of Sweden who was just shy of his 73rd birthday when he competed at the 1920 Olympics in shooting.

Born in 1943, he started riding at the age of 12. Hoketsuís first Olympic competition was in 1964 in stadium jumping, long before most of todayís Olympic athletes were born. He qualified but did not compete in the 1988 Olympics and competed again in 2008 and 2012. His rode his last horse, a chestnut mare named Whisper to a 9th place team dressage finish for Japan and a 35th individual placing.

Sadly, Whisper had to be euthanized in the fall of 2013 after a broken pastern that became infected after surgery. With a new horse, he is only a few qualifying events to earn one of the four places on the Japanese Olympic Equestrian team that will travel to Rio this summer. For his 2016 Olympic bid, Hoketsu has acquired Brioni W, a 15-year old Westfalian gelding. The gelding was raised by and formerly owned by German Olympian Brigitte Wittig.

Hoketsu is said to have thought of quitting riding, but he says, he has no other hobbies and would continue a bit longer. Since retiring from his career in the pharmaceutical industry in 2003, he has made equestrianism his full time job. He spends most of his time near his trainer in Auchen, Germany. He is so dedicated to his sport that he rarely returned home for the year preceding his last Olympics.

Many people ask if they are too old to learn to ride. The answer is no. While few of us will be able to qualify for the Olympics, itís inspiring to see that equestrianism is a sport not just for the young, but for those who live to the fullest, disregarding the standard image of youth and raw prowess.
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