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Equestrian

At 67, Japan's Hoketsu still riding high in saddle

Forty-four years after his first Olympic experience, Hoketsu Hiroshi rode Whisper to a 35th-place finish in dressage. Forty-four years after his first Olympic experience, Hoketsu Hiroshi rode Whisper to a 35th-place finish in dressage. (Mike Clarke/AFP/Getty Images)
August 21, 2008
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Hiroshi Hoketsu, at 67 the oldest competitor in the Beijing Olympics, said he plans to keep riding and won't rule out an appearance at the 2012 London Games.

Hoketsu made his Olympic debut at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo before this week competing in his second Games at the equestrian events in Hong Kong. In the four-decade hiatus, he switched to dressage from jumping.

"I will try my best to ride as long as possible," Hoketsu said in a phone interview from his hotel in Hong Kong. "Ever since I started, the major motivation for me to continue was the feeling that I was improving day by day and enjoying it."

Exactly 16,000 days passed between the closing ceremony in Tokyo and Hoketsu's final ride in Hong Kong this week - and there was an improvement. In the individual competition, he was 35th this time on Whisper, five places better than in 1964; in the team event, Japan was 10th, compared with 12th last time.

Facilities have also gotten better over Hoketsu's Olympic career. Hong Kong spent $154 million on "six-star accommodation" for the horses at Sha Tin and Beas River, featuring four blocks of stables that had 24-hour air conditioning, revolving feed bowls, and ice-making machines.

When asked about the biggest changes since his first Olympics, Hoketsu identified the number of professionals competing in the Games and the level of security.

"I know the security is necessary but it's too much sometimes," Hoketsu said. "It takes so much time to get into the competition area."

Even if Hoketsu rides at the London Games, he won't be the oldest competitor in Olympic history. Sweden's Oscar Swahn was 72 when he took part in shooting at the 1920 Antwerp Games. (Bloomberg)

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