Oldies still have that golden touch at Sochi

Grizzled veterans of Winter Olympics, proving themselves as fit as their younger counterparts, have been racking up the medals in Russia

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 10:54pm


They are the 30-somethings and even 40-somethings who refuse to bow out gracefully - the grizzled veterans of the Olympics who will not give in to gilded youth.

And they are not just here to admire the scenery; they are winning medals of every colour.

US skier Bode Miller, 36, shared bronze in the super-G, a feat matched by 37-year-old Dutch speed skater Bob de Jong in the 10,000m, while Russia's Albert Demchenko, 42, has two silvers in the men's luge.

I'm 43 and I play on the same line as guys who are 19 and 20-something. It's a good thing. Obviously, they're just numbers. Mentally, I think we are the same age.

Finnish hockey player Teemu Selanne

And then there is 40-year-old Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (pictured), who ripped up the record books on Wednesday, becoming the most successful Winter Olympian in history with 13 medals, including eight golds.

When asked about joining Alpine greats Hermann Maier and Kjetil Andre Aamodt as multiple medallists in super-G, Miller said: "It means I'm old."

Jamaican bobsleigh pilot Winston Watts, at 46, is three times the age of 15-year-old Russian ice dance princess Julia Lipnitskaia and still full of bubbling enthusiasm, despite being nowhere near the podium in Sochi.

But even Watts, taking part in his fourth Olympics, feels the tap of Father Time on his shoulder and is ready to hand over to the next generation, describing himself as "old as dirt".

"Our main goal towards the next Olympics is to have young pilots, get younger athletes to portray their dream to go forward to the South Korean Olympics in 2018," he said.

Finnish ice hockey veteran Teemu Selanne, who scored in his team's quarter-final victory over the hosts on Wednesday, is back in Russia 25 years after he first competed in the country.

The NHL veteran made his Olympic debut in Albertville in 1992 and has now competed at six Olympic Games.

"I'm 43 and I play on the same line as guys who are 19 and 20-something," he said. "It's a good thing. Obviously, they're just numbers. Mentally, I think we are the same age.

"Obviously, I'm very proud that I've been able to play for so many years, and the passion for the game is the biggest reason I can still play. Of course, it's not getting any easier at this age. But I'm still trying to play my best level and help the team."

Suggesting the Finns may harbour the secret to eternal youth - at least on the ice - fellow 40-something and mother-of-three Hanna-Riikka Valila returned to the sport last year after a decade away and was reselected.

"I was a little reluctant to return at first. After all, I'm old enough to be the mother of many of my teammates," she said. "But I enjoy playing with these younger girls, they keep me feeling younger."

Japanese ski jumping silver medallist Noriaki Kasai, 41, who ties with Demchenko for the most Winter Games appearances, shows no sign of wanting to quit yet. "Being in the Olympics means being the best in the world and this makes me want to continue. I feel 32," he said.

And for Bjoerndalen, age appears to be just a number. Was it was a factor in his fourth-placed finish in last week's 12.5km pursuit? Apparently not. "When I won gold two days ago my age wasn't a problem," he said.