Japanese in 70s heads to Olympics

Japanese in 70s heads to Olympics

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Japanese in 70s heads to Olympics

Hiroshi Hoketsu on ‘Whisper’ greets after competing in the Havens Prize dressage in Aachen on July 3, 2008. AFP photo

Japanese dressage rider Hiroshi Hoketsu, the oldest competitor at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said yesterday it was a “miracle” he had earned a slot at the coming London Games, when he will be 71.

Hoketsu was quoted by Japanese newspapers saying he was as fit as four years ago, and thanking his advanced age for making him a celebrity.

The Japanese Equestrian Federation said on Saturday that Hoketsu and his 15-year-old mare Whisper had topped the individual dressage rankings for Asia-Oceania and so earned a berth at the event in London.

“To put it pompously, it was a miracle,” Hoketsu, who turns 71 later this month, told the Sports Hochi daily.
“Last summer, I thought it would be impossible to make London, so it fills me with deep emotions.”

Whisper, his mount since 2006, suffered a muscle injury after the world equestrian championships in September 2010 and needed nearly 10 months to recover.

Hailed as the “hope of old men” at home, Hoketsu rode Whisper at the 2008 Games, where he finished ninth in team dressage and 35th in individual dressage.

At 67 years and four months, he was the oldest athlete in any event and the oldest to appear for Japan in any Olympics. It was his second Games, after he came 40th in showjumping at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, 44 years previously.