Tokyo to London an Olympic effort

HIROSHI Hoketsu has no plans of riding off into the sunset.

Well, not until after the London Olympics at least.

Now almost 71, Hoketsu will be going to the Games again - not to watch, but to compete ... again.

The Japanese dressage rider, will, not surprisingly, be the oldest Olympian in London, but he's used to that as he held that title four years ago in Beijing.

The oldest Olympian is Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who won a silver medal at the 1920 Antwerp Games at the age of 72 years and 10 months.

Hoketsu, who also qualified for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, but was unable to compete when his horse was quarantined, finished ninth in the dressage team event and 35th out of the 47 riders in the individual competition in Beijing.

So now, 48 years after Hoketsu made his Olympic debut in the Tokyo Games where he competed as a showjumper and finished 40th, he has no plans to sit back and take it easy at his age - for a start, he says he doesn't feel old.

"I feel fit, healthy and I have the same physique as when I was at university all those years ago," Hoketsu, who spends 40 minutes a day working his muscles, said. "I can feel I am still improving, if only little by little. This has motivated me quite a lot to continue my equestrian career.

"I couldn't be happier."

Hoketsu, who lives in Germany, said there was a time last year when he didn't think he would be in with a chance of riding in London and it had nothing to do with his age.

His 15-year-old mare Whisper, who he has been riding for five years, was diagnosed with tendinitis.
"I had totally given up on trying to go to London," he said.

"But then a friend introduced me to a good vet and one month later I was training again and in January this year I started competing again. The horse's recovery was a miracle. I was very lucky.

"She's a little bit old, but still a good age."

The same seems true for the rider as well.

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