AP – When the Beijing Olympics close on February 20, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, by tradition, will call on the “youth of the world to assemble four years from now”.
He may consider expanding that invitation to the 2026 Winter Games at Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy to another group: the oldies but goodies.
Start with Frenchman Johan Clarey. He turned 41 last month and in Beijing became the oldest man to win an Olympic medal in Alpine skiing. He took silver in downhill, his first medal in his fourth Olympics.
“When you’re a medalist, whether you’re 20 or 41, it doesn’t matter,” Clarey said.
Clarey barely outdid Nick Baumgartner. In Beijing, the 40-year-old American won his first Olympic medal – a gold – with fellow American Lindsey Jacobellis in mixed team snowboard cross.
“You’re never too late to take what you want from life,” Baumgartner said. “You let yourself down if you quit too early, doesn’t matter how old you are.”
Baumgartner, a concrete worker/contractor from Michigan, is the oldest snowboarder to win an Olympic medal.
At 36, Jacobellis is no kid herself. She won two gold medals – one with Baumgartner, and the other in snowboard cross.
She became the oldest United States (US) woman to win gold in Winter Games history.
She’s also the second oldest behind Baumgartner – from any nation – to win an Olympic medal in snowboarding.
Jacobellis also won a silver medal in 2006. The 16 years marked the longest gap between medals for any US woman at the Winter Olympics.
Olympic historian Bill Mallon counted at least 10 athletes in Beijing who were born in the 1970s, meaning they are well into their 40s.
The oldest is speedskater Claudia Pechstein, who is almost out of her 40s. She turns 50 just two days after the Winter Olympics close. At Beijing, she became the oldest woman to compete in a Winter Olympics – and the second and only woman to compete in eight Winter Games.
The German they call “Grandma” is a five-time gold medalist, and a winner of nine overall. She won’t medal in Beijing – and it won’t matter.
“Every day is harder to get motivated, especially when you feel not so great and the results aren’t coming along,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“But I’m still proud of myself. I can still compete with the world’s younger girls.”