Japanese Equestrian Qualifies for 2012 Olympics at Age 70

The Olympian debuted in the 1964 Tokyo games and just qualified to compete this summer in London.

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Japan's oldest Olympian Hiroshi Hoketsu exercises at a horse riding center in Aachen, western Germany, Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

In 1964, Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu competed in his first Olympic Games in his home city of Tokyo, finishing 40th in show jumping. And he didn’t stop there. In 2008, he was the oldest Olympian at the Beijing games, and now, at age 70, he’s just qualified for this summer’s London games as well.

“This time, I am very pleased to have qualified, particularly because my horse had a little accident last year,” Hoketsu told the Associated Press. “She was not in very good condition.”

He qualified by winning an international dressage competition in France last week with his 15-year-old mare, Whisper. He said last year he thought it would be impossible to make it to London, so this is “a miracle.”

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Japan’s team hasn’t been officially announced, but Hoketsu, who now resides in the western Germany city of Aachen, said he’s confident he’ll be competing. He retired from Johnson & Johnson eight years ago and moved to Aachen, where the owner and trainer of the horse he was riding were based.

In the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Hoketsu finished 35th in the individual competition and ninth in the dressage team event. He said hopes to do better in London, but his horse’s health could present a major obstacle. After seeing several veterinarians, she was diagnosed with tendonitis. It got so bad that he planned on giving up altogether, until he visited another vet in mid-November who helped stabilize the mare’s condition. In January, Hoketsu and Whisper began competing again.

In 2008, Hoketsu competed at the age of 67, and will be 71 when this summer’s games roll around. But he’s not the oldest Olympian in history. That titles belongs to Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who, at age 72, won a silver medal at the 1920 Antwerp games.

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