Profiles in Speed

Are you over the hill for Olympic sports?

As we watch teenage Olympians fly through the air and water, even 20-somethings wonder if their athletic glory days have passed. But 12 members of the U.S. team in London are competing at age 40-plus. Here, we take a look at which sports skew young and which allow for more longevity. In which events might you still have a chance? Tell us your gender and age and we'll help you find out.

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Your best bets are swimming, boxing and diving.

Teenagers are fairly rare on the U.S. Olympic men's team with two exceptions: boxers and swimmers. Michael Phelps swam in two Olympics as a teen and won eight medals at 19 years old. Boxing's lower weight classes favor younger, smaller guys.

Your best bests are gymnastics and swimming.

In most sports your best days are to yet come, with the notable exception of gymnastics, which is dominated by teenage women. Young swimming phenoms also crop up often. Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin is carrying the girl-power banner in London.

Your best bets are: Just about anything.

You are in the prime age group for Olympic sports. More than 65 percent of U.S. Olympians are in their 20s, dominating many events, particularly those that require killer speed (sprinting) and peak agility (soccer, basketball, volleyball).

Your best bets are distance running, cycling and modern pentathlon.

By your 30s, you are probably a bit less quick, but you may also be stronger, tougher and (ideally) wiser. Around this age, some track athletes move to longer distances where race smarts and training savvy can overcome youth and raw speed.

Your best bests are distance running, triathlon, rowing, cycling and tennis.

Women skew older than men in some sports, such as tennis, where finesse and savvy can be more effective than sheer power. By your 30s, you are probably a bit less quick, but you may also be stronger, tougher and (ideally) wiser.

Your best bets are equestrian, sailing and archery.

Your sports involve more strategy and patience than physical prowess, but 40-something men have recently won medals in sailing, equestrian and archery. Archery and shooting require steadier hands than many overly-excited younger people can muster.

Your best bests are equestrian, shooting and sailing.

The sport for which you may be best suited requires patience, perseverance, calm — and horses. All U.S. medals in the past three Games won by 40-something women not named Dara Torres were won in equestrian events.

Your best bets are archery, sailing, shooting and equestrian.

No U.S. 50-something has won a medal recently, but seven have competed in the sports listed above during the past three Games. No reason to douse your Olympic flame yet!

While the U.S. team may be a long shot, your age-group peers are still represented. Japan's Hiroshi Hoketsu, 71, qualified for Japan's equestrian team in London. The oldest Olympic medalist was Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who won silver in 1920 at age 72.




Age range of U.S. athletes in the four most recent Summer Games, by sport

Medals histogram

693 athletes out of 1,707 American athletes who competed in the past three Summer Games won medals. 147 of the 693 medalists won more than one medal.

    Gymnasts must turn 16 in the calendar year of the Olympics to be eligible. Kyla Ross will turn 16 in October.

    LeBron James, 19 in 2004, was the only teenager of either gender on the U.S. basketball team in the past three Olympics.

    You 30- and 40-somethings can thank Dara Torres, 41, for your inclusion. The only other female swimmer over 29 was Jenny Thompson at 31.

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    Note: Sports with a single athlete are not shown. SOURCE: Sports Reference LLC.
    GRAPHIC: Kat Downs, Bonnie Berkowitz and Todd Lindeman - TWP. Published May 17, 2012. Updated July 30, 2012.

    Article: Speed for the ages


    Everyone slows down as they get older, but why? Understanding the answers has enabled Dara Torres, 45, to compete with women swimmers half her age.

    Series: Profiles in Speed

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