Oldest Olympics medallist - An unimaginable feat

“What is the age limit for the Olympic Games”, was a question asked in a Quiz Competition of a college festival in Mumbai, just after the games had concluded. Surprisingly, a couple of teams floundered while answering this question before one participant joyfully screamed “No Age Bar”. That earned his team five points. I knew the answer myself but I wanted to know who would have been the oldest participant and medal winner at the Olympic Games.

The search for the answer took me to a 92 year old record. A Swedish shooter, aged 72, had not only participated at the 1920-Antwerp Olympics but also had won a medal at that age. At the age where most of the people fight against the deteriorating health, slow reflexes and doctor visits, Oscar Swahn won a medal at the Olympic Games which is a record even today. Swahn won a Silver medal in 100 m team running deer double shot events in 1920 Games.

Oscar Swahn

At the 1908 London Games, Joshua Millner, a British shooter, aged 61 became the oldest person to win a Gold medal in the 1000 yards Free Rifle competition. Swahn had won three medals in the London edition of the competition – two Gold medals (Single shot running deer and Team-single shot running deer) and a Bronze (Double shot running deer).

Family support is very important for any athlete at any age. Swahn’s story was no different. He was accompanied by his son Alfred at all events. The interesting thing was that he was no mug with the gun himself. He won a total of 9 Olympic medals (3 Gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze medals) across four Olympic Games.

At the 1912 Stockholm Games, Swahn broke Millner’s record of being the oldest medallist of that time at the Olympic Games. He and his son Alfred won the Gold medal at the team running deer, single shots event. This has never happened till date in the Olympic Games where father-son duo participated together in any event. What makes this even more astonishing is that they won the Gold medal.

Swahn qualified for the 1924 Paris Olympic Games, but had to drop out due to long standing illness and injury. He died three years later in 1927, aged 79.

Between the years 1912-48, art competitions were held at the Olympic Games. John Copley won a silver medal in 1948 in the engravings and etchings competition at the age of 73, but as art isn’t sport, Swahn is regarded as the oldest medallist.

In today’s day and age, it is hard to imagine anyone coming close to beating this record which looks impregnable. As they say “Records are meant to be broken”, but of course there are exceptions to every rule. Can anyone match Swahn’s invincibility?

Edited by Staff Editor
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