|Born:||March 28, 1941|
Forty-four years later
Hiroshi Hoketsu was 22 years old when he competed in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Even though he placed a disappointing 40th in the show jumping event, his zeal for riding was not extinguished. He switched to dressage and made time for training despite a demanding career in the pharmaceutical industry. He was an alternate in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and qualified for the Seoul Olympics four years later, but had to drop out because his horse did not pass a quarantine exam. But in 2008, at 66 years old, he placed first at the Pan-Asian Olympic qualifiers, helping Japan secure a team slot in the equestrian events.
Hoketsu is widely known among the Japanese media as "oldie idol," for obvious reasons: Not only will he be the oldest Japanese athlete ever to appear on the Olympic stage, but he is also one of the oldest Olympians ever; the oldest is Oscar Swahn, a 72-year-old Swedish shooter who won the gold medal at the 1920 Games. "Initially I was a little reluctant about having my age splashed across the news," he said in an interview with Reuters. "I didn't see why my age should be such a big thing. I wasn't selected for the Olympics because I'm 67."
After the 1964 Games, Hoketsu earned a graduate degree in economics from Duke University. His first job was at the pharmaceutical company Hoffman-LaRoche Ltd. He then moved on to become a manager at the Johnson & Johnson offices in Tokyo. In 1981 he took a job at Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, K.K. and eventually became president of the company, retiring in 2002. Throughout his career however, he remained dedicated to riding. "I always woke up at 5 a.m. and would go for a ride before going to the office," he said.
Training in Germany
In 2003, Hoketsu moved to Aachen, Germany, to train full-time with his coach Ton de Ridder. His wife Motoko, who had encouraged him to try dressage after they watched European competition, stayed in Japan with their daughter.
Hoketsu started riding when he was 12 years old at the Tokyo Riding Club. He attended Keio University in Tokyo before his Olympic debut in 1964. Despite his lifelong experience with riding, his enthusiasm for the sport has only grown. "If anything, " he says, "I'm more passionate about it than ever."
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