Jamie Moyer and 10 Other Athletes Who Defied Age to Achieve Greatness
In a game on Tuesday night, Rockies' pitcher Jamie Moyer, 49, became the oldest major league pitcher to earn a win. ''It's a great night for the Rockies, as far as winning a baseball game. But it's an historic night for one tremendous human being,'' Rockies manager Jim Tracy said after the game.
Athletes in all sports have long tried to hold on for years after their primes are over, with mixed results. Here's a look at 10 athletes who have in recent years proven the opposition wrong while racking up some amazing feats:
Moyer isn't baseball's first journeyman, and he won't be the last. At the age of 40 last August Jim Thome became the oldest player to join the 600 home run club. What was so noteworthy about the moment was how little excitement Thome expressed. He was surely proud of his achievement, but he was at the ballpark that night for one purpose: to help win the game for his team.
After decades of showing elusive moves on the court, Steve Nash appears to finally be slowing down a bit, though it's hard to tell. Over the past two seasons, Nash became the oldest player to lead the NBA in assists, and then broke his own record the following year. He's slotted now, at 38, to finish second in the league behind Rajon Rondo this year. His consistency is most amazing, as he's averaged just about 11 dishes per game every season since he returned to the Suns in 2004.
In 2010, while a member of the Indianapolis Colts, then 42-year-old kicker Matt Stover became the oldest player in Super Bowl history. ''It's been a ride, to say the least,'' Stover said. It was probably fate that delivered him there after reliable Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri had to have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee that created an opening for Stover to step in.
Last June, 43-year-old Mark Recchi became the oldest player to ever score a goal in the Stanley Cup final as he led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup win. He didn't show any signs of slowing down, netting 10 points in 13 games during the playoffs. Shortly afterward, Recchi announced his retirement, a happy man. “It’s the end for me,” he said. “This is the last time I get the chance," he said.
Tom Watson took home first place at the Senior PGA Championship in May 2011 at the age of 61, making him the oldest person to win a major on the senior tour. "Obviously, it never ceases to be enjoyable, winning a golf tournament," he said. "I'll go back and think about this tournament. If this is the last tournament I ever win, it's not a bad one to win." Other golfers marveled at how long and steady Watson's career has been. Consider Watson among the most surprised. "Lo and behold, I started making good swings again," he said.
On some rare occasions, a soccer player will outlast his critics and prove he still has some gas left in his tank. For Brad Friedel, that satisfaction came in February 2011 when he became the oldest player to take the field for Aston Villa. But it was all business for him. “We’re not paid to go out and get records -- unless it means winning trophies. Age is just a number. I don’t think about it, I just go by how I feel," he said. Now 41, Friedel plays for the Tottenham Hotspur and is the Premier League record holder for most consecutive appearances with 304.
There's no doubt that Roger Federer has lost a step in recent years, but in November he became the oldest player to win the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. That's significant for the 30-year-old because it was the last tournament of the season, and it allowed Federer to carry a winning streak of 17 matches into this spring. "I couldn't be more happy and I couldn't be more exhausted," he said after the match.
Bernard Hopkins achieved the unthinkable in May 2011 when he became the oldest fighter to win a major world championship, after he took home the WBC light heavyweight title. Hopkins, 46, beat Jean Pascal to bring his career record to 52-5-2. He eclipsed George Foreman's previous record by roughly six months. "I won't retire until I'm 50," Hopkins said after the match.
In July 2010, Merlene Ottey, at age 50, became the oldest athlete to compete at the European Championships after she anchored Slovenia's 400 women's relay team. But the team finished 7th in that heat, ending her run She has 29 medals from her time at major competitions,which includes seven Olympic Games. Perhaps most impressive is the bronze medal she took home at the 1992 Barcelona Games when she was 32 years old.
We might see history made in 2016 at the Olympic Games, if Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu gets his way. He's expected to compete at the London Olympics this summer at the ripe old age of 71, and he's hoping to break the all-time mark for oldest athlete at the next one. "I will go on as long as it is possible -- physically and as far as circumstances permit," Hoketsu, who became in 2008 the oldest Japanese athlete to attend any Olympics, said. To break the all-time mark, though, he'll likely have to replace his horse, Whisper, who's gotten too old to compete.