OLYMPICS

Who is the oldest Olympian ever?

The oldest Olympian ever, Oscar Swahn of Sweden, was 72 years and 281 days when he competed at the 1920 Olympics in shooting, where he picked up a silver medal.

Who is the oldest Olympian ever?
ISSEI KATO REUTERS

Over the decades since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, athletes have come in all shapes and sizes, as well as all ages, from early teenagers to 70-somethings.

The oldest ever Olympian is Sweden’s Oscar Swahn, who was the ripe old age of 72 years and 281 days when he competed at the 1920 Olympics in shooting. The Swede won a silver medal in the double shot running deer contest, making him the oldest medalist of all time.

A golden oldie

Swahn also competed at the 1908 Olympics in London, where he won two gold medals in the running deer and single shot events (individual and team) at the age of 60 years, and at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, where, at 64 years and 258 days of age, he became the oldest gold medalist of all time  as a member of the single shot running deer team.

He also qualified for the 1924 Olympics but withdrew without competing. Three years later he passed away on 1 May, 1927 at the age of 79.

Von Von Pongracz and Hoketsu

The second oldest competitor of all time, equestrian rider Arthur von Pongracz of Austria, was also 72 years old when he competed in the 1936 Olympic Games, where finished fourth in the men’s team dressage. Von Pongracz also competed at the Games in 1924 and 1928, where finished 6th in the men's individual dressage.

At 71, Japan equestrian rider Hiroshi Hoketsu became the third-oldest Olympian when he competed at the 2012 Games in London, where he finished 40th in the individual dressage event. Hoketsu also participated in the Olympics in 1964, qualified in 1988 (but did not compete as his horse was quarantined), and competed again in 2008.

In January 2020, he was named as one of 17 dressage riders bidding for one of three spots on the Japanese Olympic team in Tokyo. Had he taken one of those spots (which eventually went to Kazuki Sado, Shingo Hayashi and Hiroyuki Kitahara) he would have overtaken Swahn to become the oldest ever Olympic athlete at 80 years old.