Hiroshi Hoketsu, the Olympic veteran at 71 years, on his horse Whisper, tackles the dressage almost half a century after his first Games. The crowd at the Greenwich Park equestrian arena roared to acknowledge the arrival of the Games’ oldest competitor – a ramrod-straight and dapper man of 71 – would have frightened the mare and probably embarrassed her rider.
Hoketsu, after all, had not travelled from his home in Germany to fly the flag for older athletes, nor had he come to court the sympathy vote. He had come to London, as he went to his first games in Tokyo in 1964, and to Beijing four years ago, to compete and, hopefully, to win.
And with that, the oldest Olympian rode out of the arena, to finish 17th out of 24. But if Hoketsu was disappointed by his performance, he gave no sign of it. At one point, not too long ago, it looked as if he would not be coming to London at all.
“I made two or three mistakes, which I shouldn’t have, so I’m not totally happy, but it wasn’t terribly bad,” he said after the event. And the crowd, he added, had been “very good”.
Asked whether he intended to return at Rio aged 75, he paused for an instant. “No. I want to but I don’t think I can because it’s very difficult to find a horse to bring me to Brazil,” he said. “My present horse is too old for that.”