Boomer Olympians Defy Old Age

The average age of U.S. Olympic athletes has increased.

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Allegedly underage Chinese gymnasts are making headlines. But the age of Olympic athletes is actually significantly higher than it was a generation ago—at least for U.S. competitors. The average age of the U.S. Summer Olympic team rose from 24 in 1976 to 27 in 1996 and has since remained steady, USA Today reports.

The average is driven up by a handful of athletes with a decade or more of additional life experience. USA Today published a list of U.S. athletes competing in Beijing who are at least 35 years old. The list is topped by 58-year-old sailor and grandfather John Dane III, who finally made the Olympic sailing team after 40 years of trying, and Libby Callahan, 56, a retired Washington, D.C., police officer and a great-aunt 15 times over who is on the shooting team.

Although the United States was still ahead in the medal count the last time I checked, we don't have a lock on the oldest current Olympians. According to an AARP international list of Olympians 50 and older, at least three countries have older Olympians. Hiroshi Hoketsu, 67, of Japan; Laurie Lever, 60, of Australia; and Ian Millar, 61, of Canada all are competing in equestrian events.

But at least the United States is still breaking down age barriers in the medals department: Dara Torres, 41, on Sunday became the oldest swimming medalist in Olympic history.