Much has been made of Ian Thorpe’s attempt to qualify for London 2012, but less well known is the fact that two women aged over 40, Dara Torres and Janet Evans look set to make the games, having both qualified for the US Olympic trials.
These women are showing that age doesn’t have to be a barrier to sporting success.
Dara Torres has already broken down the age barriers, being the first woman to swim at the Olympics over the age of 40.
Torres has won twelve Olympic medals; four gold, four silver and four bronze, five of which she won in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics.
Now aged 44 she is hoping to qualify for her sixth Olympic Games.
Fellow American swimmer Janet Evans, has also qualified for the US Olympic swimming trials and at the age of 40 could face Rebecca Addlington in the 800m at London 2012.
Evans has won four gold medals, the first three an incredible 24 years ago at the Seoul Olympics and defended her 800m freestyle four years later at Barcelona.
The mother of two retired in 1996 after a disappointing performance in Atlanta, but decided to try to qualify for London 2012 after successfully returning to Masters swimming last year.
Now, it could be argued that its is more likely for women to be able to compete for longer in swimming as it is a non-impact sport, but there are plenty of examples of older women defying their age in many other sports including the tough world of cycling.
53-year-old French cyclist Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, who won her 59th national title last year, has shown that women don’t have to be young to lead the peloton.
Jeannie won her first Olympic medal in 1992 and finished just 33 seconds behind winner Nicole Cooke in the Beijing Olympics.
In the UK the Schutt-Squadra Donne women’s cycling team was launched last month and includes the oldest woman on the British women’s series circuit.
Tracy Dresch (pictured right) is 49 and will ride alongside the youngest member of her team aged just sixteen. Tracy is no stranger to competing at an older age as she represented Great Britain at the World Masters Canoe Championships in 2006 where she won a silver medal aged 44.
Tracy, who unbelievably only started cycling at the age of 46, was selected after her successful debut road race season last year and will be racing in a series of national and international races throughout the 2012 season.
Every week, Tracy has to find the time to work, care for her family as well as training for top level British cycling.
Tracy has just returned from her international debut at the Tour of Malta and Sportsister contributor Helen Russell (pictured left) was fortunate enough to join her for a ride from her home town of Evesham, to find out what it is like to still be competing at a top level.
What does your typical training week consist of?
Most of my training is cycling specific. I usually spend 12 hours a week on the bike doing either long rides or interval sessions.
I also do two hours of Pilates and have fallen in love with Zumba, which I do once a week for fun.
Has your training had to change over the years?
The main thing is that I have to ensure that I schedule enough recovery time into my training programme. I can’t train twice a day like I used to and need more sleep otherwise I am too fatigued to perform.
I also have to stretch more and have started Pilates to help recovery and prevent injury. I have also started to drink more fluids to stay hydrated and use some supplements and even Epsom bath salts.
I remember my granny having these so I must be getting old!
How have you managed to stay fit for so long?
By not stopping training – once you stop it’s extremely hard to get the motivation to start again.
Training has become a way of life for me and with out it there’s no structure to my days. Apart from when my children were young I’ve always been doing some form of training and competing.
I was too tired to do much except look after them, never mind train.
What benefits do you think being an older athlete gives you over your younger competitors?
I’m definitely more disciplined now. When I was younger life was more about having it all, whereas now other distractions are not as alluring.
I am more self assured and worry less about what other people think about me as an athlete.
What would you say to women that are thinking about starting a sport later in life?
The rewards are immense. It helps with weight control, overall health and helps keep you feeling young. It also provides new social outlets and can also give women a new focus when the family flies the nest.
Helen Russell, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine