Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan will compete in the individual dressage for Japan’s equestrian team in London this summer. At the age of 71, Hoketsu is not just the oldest athlete to compete at London 2012.
Hoketsu is the oldest Olympian in the last 92 years, since Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn won bronze at the age of 72 at the 1920 Antwerp Games and would ride into the record books if he was able to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.
Hoketsu’s road to the Olympics was not an easy one.
The sportsman revealed the extraordinary sacrifices he has made in order to remain a medal contender well past retirement age in an interview to Yahoo.
“I have not seen my wife, Motoko, for more than a year,” said Hoketsu, who lives and trains in the German town of Aachen in order to team up with his horse, Whisper, and his Dutch coach.
“It is difficult to be away from home for this long as an old man and I owe everything to her patience and understanding,” he added.
According to The Huff Post, this summer will be Hoketsu’s third time competing in the Games, with his Olympics debut way back at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Given his age, Hoketsu’s sprightliness may seem, well, Olympian, yet he remains modest.
“People say I’m a miracle,” he said. “But I’m just an ordinary old man.”
“Whisper is the miracle,” he said to Reuters, his brow suddenly furrowing, recalling the chestnut mare’s recovery from serious tendonitis and their subsequent Olympic qualification.
“I had given up on London last November. I thought it was all over. I just thought about getting her better and taking her back to Japan and retiring,” he said.
“When she recovered I thought it was really a miracle. Then when I qualified for the Olympics I have never felt joy that big ever. I couldn’t fathom what we had achieved.”
Hoketsu also revealed how he keeps in shape for the Olympics.
“I eat what I want to eat and drink as much as I want to drink,” said Hoketsu through an interpreter. “People might expect that I am able to participate for so long because I have special habits. But my secret is to have a good life, enjoy yourself and do the things that make you happy,” the 71-year-old said.
“Having said that, I am out there riding horses every day for several hours. Then I come back in and do many exercises, to help with my strength, coordination, and, most importantly, my balance.”
“I’m the same physique as I was at university,” added the German-based rider, who first competed for Japan as a 23-year-old show jumper at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
“There’s no special secret. I get up about 7. I used to get up at 5, go riding, go home and then leave for the office for 30 years when I was working. Now I can sleep until 7. Luxury.”
He confesses he does not adhere to the dietary regimen you might expect from an Olympic athlete.
“I cook four times a week and avoid oily food,” he said. “I don’t eat many sausages.”
About he plans for the future Hoketsu said: “My wife would like for this to be my last year of competition and that will probably be the case. But I still feel my riding is improving, little by little. That is my motivation. I am a better rider at 70 than I was at 40. Most people can’t tell but my body is getting a little weaker. My horse knows it and she helps me.”