rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Sports » Japan goes bananas for 71-year-old horseman

Japan goes bananas for 71-year-old horseman

Last updated on: April 13, 2012 11:42 IST

'I don't know how you're supposed to feel at 71'

     Next

Next

Japanese dressage rider Hiroshi Hoketsu looks and dresses more like a soccer manager in his early fifties than the world's oldest Olympian at 71-years-old. Meet the Benjamin Button of this year's London Olympics.

A national celebrity, Hoketsu greets you with a firm handshake, his sharp wit and fierce determination striking you immediately.

- Clothing options added for women's beach volleyball

"I don't know how you're supposed to feel at 71," Hoketsu said in an interview on Thursday, sitting bolt upright in a jacket and smart yellow tie.

"I'm the same physique as I was at university," added the German-based rider, who first competed for Japan as a 23-year-old show jumper at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

"There's no special secret. I get up about 7. I used to get up at 5, go riding, go home and then leave for the office for 30 years when I was working. Now I can sleep until 7. Luxury."


Image: Hiroshi Hoketsu
Photographs: Ina Fassbender/Reuters

     Next

'I cook four times a week and avoid oily food'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Whippet-thin at 1.68 metres tall and 62 kilos, Hoketsu steers clear of German food as much as possible.

"I cook four times a week and avoid oily food," he said. "I don't eat many sausages."


Photographs: John Sommers II/Reuters
Tags: Hoketsu

Prev     Next

'I had given up on London last November'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The poster boy for a health food company, Hoketsu and his banana-crazy mount Whisper are creating quite a buzz worldwide in the run-up to the London Games in July and August.

Hoketsu, who also dealt with a media circus before the Beijing Games four years ago, laughs aloud when compared with the movie character Benjamin Button, who ages in reverse.

"Whisper is the miracle," he said, his brow suddenly furrowing, recalling the chestnut mare's recovery from serious tendonitis and their subsequent Olympic qualification.

"I had given up on London last November. I thought it was all over. I just thought about getting her better and taking her back to Japan and retiring.

"When she recovered I thought it was really a miracle. Then when I qualified for the Olympics I have never felt joy that big ever. I couldn't fathom what we had achieved."


Photographs: Toru Hanai/Reuters

Prev     Next

Hoketsu is the oldest Olympian since Oscar Swahn in 1920

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Camera crews have already begun swarming to the German spa town of Aachen, where he is based, to catch up with the Olympian the Japanese have dubbed "the hope of old men".

Hoketsu, as he is sick of hearing, is the oldest Olympian since Oscar Swahn, a 72-year-old Swedish shooter who won silver at the 1920 Antwerp Games.

A swan-song at the Rio Olympics in 2016, however unlikely, would give him the record.

"I know about the record," Hoketsu said, rolling his eyes. "Realistically I think it's very difficult because the horse is going to be 19.

"And to find a horse which will bring me to Rio or to the Olympics is going to be very, very difficult."


Photographs: Caren Firouz/Reuters

Prev     Next

'When something is moving on the screen, she gets very upset'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Not to mention, Hoketsu himself would be 75, albeit a freakishly young-looking 75.

In Beijing, Whisper had been spooked by seeing herself on the giant screen and they finished in 35th place.

"I hope there is no big screen there but if there is, I don't think she's going to (like) it," he said. "She is very sensitive.

"When something is moving on the screen, she gets very upset. In Beijing, the cameraman zoomed in on me and the horse and that's the reason she really reacted like that."


Photographs: Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

Prev     Next

'I forget where I left things and need glasses to read'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Hoketsu, the same age as Brazilian soccer great Pele, undergoes daily muscle toning sessions to maintain his core strength for the rigorous demands of equestrian.

"I haven't reached the limit physically when I have to be told to stop," he said. "I forget where I left things and need glasses to read the paper so maybe I am getting old."


Photographs: Ina Fassbender/Reuters
Tags: Hoketsu , Pele

Prev     Next

'I've only been to London once - it's too expensive'

Prev     More
Prev

More

Light-heartedly deflecting the hullabaloo over his appearance in London, Hoketsu said he feels more relaxed than four years ago.

"I've only been to London once - it's too expensive," he said. "It's not going to be pressure for me, or Whisper either.

"As long as there is a supply of bananas. She's mad for bananas."


Photographs: I forget where I left things and need glasses to read
Tags: London , Hoketsu

Prev     More
Source:
© Copyright 2014 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.