Amid all the fanfare that came from the medal-winning performances of Blue Devils Abby Johnston and Nick McCrory at the London Olympics, another Olympian with ties to the university has been overlooked. Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan, who at age 71 is the oldest competitor at the games, graduated from Duke with a master’s degree in economics in 1968, according to this story from Duke Magazine.
Hoketsu is competing in the equestrian dressage event an astounding 48 years after he first debuted at the 1964 games in Tokyo, according to this AP story. Dressage showcases the training of horses by their trainers, with the horse and rider going through different tests and then scored on a scale of 1-10.
After the 1964 games, Hoketsu earned his master’s degree in Durham, before starting a career in business in Japan. He, however, did not give up riding and would wake up every morning at 5 a.m. to ride before heading to the office.
Hoketsu, who will be competing in his third games after also participating at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is known as “The Hope of Old Men” in Japan and is also a spokesperson for a health-food company.
It is quite remarkable to learn of his motivations to compete. According to the stories, he feels that to this day he is still improving and even believes he could compete in the next Olympics in 2016. He, however, does not plan to do so as his horse, 15-year-old Whisper, is getting too old and he doubts he will be able to find another one.
If Hoketsu does make it to Brazil, he will become the oldest Olympian in the history of the modern games. The current holder of that honor is Oscar Swahn, who at 72 won a silver-medalist in shooting in the 1920 Games.