In the past 3 summer Olympic Games, only 64 of the 1,707 athletes of team USA have been over the age of 40. The Washington Post created a data visualization of average age ranges for Olympic sports, including an interactive tool to see if you’d be too old to compete. As presented, athlete ages range from 15 for female gymnasts to nearly 60 for male sailors.
In a recent Washington Post profile on 45-year-old female swimmer Dana Torres, she discusses the effects of age on the body, and how she works to overcome these obstacles. Although muscles deteriorate and recovery becomes slower, Torres believes that age is on her side. Since age comes with experience, the twelve-time Olympic medalist is more mentally prepared for the Games than any other female swimmer.
However, with sports such as gymnastics that require more flexibility than sheer force and power, younger bodies have a far greater advantage. Youth is so beneficial in gymnastics that a minimum age requirement of 16 was implemented to protect athletes with developing bodies from serious injuries.
A recent Wired article provides an explanation for these aberrations: people age at different rates and, although younger athletes are generally stronger and more flexible, people age at different rates, allowing some athletes to remain competitive – despite the ticking clock.
Check out the image below for the average ages and click on it to see how would you rank in various sports.
Pictured: Katie Ledecky and Karen O’Connor, the 2012 U.S. Olympic team’s youngest and oldest female athletes.