I love watching the Olympics. There are so many inspiring stories. Just qualifying for the Olympics is a huge accomplishment in and of itself.
The Olympics may be a youth-dominated event, but there are some exceptional older athletes (those 50 and older) who have defied all odds and have shown the world that they can compete against younger athletes.
Some 50+ athletes are even among the small fraction of the elite Olympic athletes who have been able to reach the podium. Since 1896 there have been 121 athletes older than 50 who have won 183 medals in Olympic history.
These athletes are an encouragement to people of all ages that it's never too late to go after your dreams. In some sports competitors can even get better with age. Canadian Ian Millar was 61 years old when he won his first medal even though it was his ninth time at the Olympics. Now 65 he is competing for a record-breaking 10th time.
Impowerage magazine created the following visual representation of all the Olympic medalists older than 50, the sports they competed in and the countries they represented. This infograph was created by the magazine I founded. Our mission is to encourage older adults that it's never to late to pursue their dreams, be fit, change their careers or give back to the community.
Aging doesn't have to stop us from following our dreams -- after the 2012 Olympics this infograph will have to be updated!
This is <a href="http://www.thebarrygroup.com/ocet2012/OCETPeople.asp" target="_hplink">O'Connor's fifth appearance at the Olympics</a>. She has been named U.S. Female Equestrian Athlete of the Year 10 times and, in 1993, was the number one ranked female rider in the world. She received the Team Silver Medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and the Team Bronze Medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. In 2007, Karen and her pony Theodore O'Connor won the Individual Gold Medal in addition to leading the U.S. to the Team Gold Medal at the Pan Am Games in Brazil.
Karen has been married to equestrian David O'Connor since 1993; they operate the O'Connor Event Team in The Plains, VA, where they train new horses and promising riders. They became the second husband and wife to stand on the same podium in the same event at the Olympics in 1996. However this <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=karen-oconnor/index.html?etx=bio" target="_hplink">may be Karen's last competition</a>, as David will be taking over as coach of the U.S. team next year, resulting in a conflict of interest, NBC reported.
Although this year will be <a href="http://www2.tbo.com/news/news/2012/jun/12/memeto1-teacher-sets-sights-on-olympic-medal-ar-414880/" target="_hplink">Milev's fifth appearance</a> at the Olympic Games, it will be his first time competing for the U.S. Olympic team. The physical education teacher first competed for Bulgaria in 1992 and won a silver medal in the 1996 Games. Milev will be competing in the 25-meter rapid fire pistol event.
"I was thinking after 2007, I will stop [shooting] and this will be it -- I was heading in another direction, teaching," said<a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/king/news-blogs/shooting/spokane-shooter-amanda-furrer-headed-to-london.html" target="_hplink"> Milev in an interview with NBC</a>. "But I like shooting and I kept coming to Nationals and kept practicing from time to time and slowly my results improved and it all just happened." <a href="http://www.usashooting.org/12-the-team/usashootingteam/nationalteam/nationalpistolteam/milev" target="_hplink">Milev began practicing shooting</a> in 1984 in Bulgaria. After <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=emil-milev/index.html" target="_hplink">competing for Bulgaria four times</a> in the Olympics, Milev -- along with his wife of over 20 years and children, moved to Florida in 2004.
<a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=daryl-szarenski/index.html" target="_hplink">Sergeant First Class Daryl Szarenski</a> is heading to the Olympics for the fourth time. The Saginaw, MI native will be competing in the 10m air pistol and 50m free pistol categories. The <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/story/2011-10-17/Pan-Am-Games/50805116/1" target="_hplink">three time Olympian</a> has never won a medal in the Games, but <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/17/us-games-panam-idUSTRE79G0LQ20111017" target="_hplink">won his third Pan-Am gold medal</a> in 2011 in the 10m air pistol event.
Though Szarenski already earned a spot in the Olympic Games for the 10m air pistol event, he <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/news-blogs/shooting/szarenski-mowrer-qualify-in-50m-free-pistol.html" target="_hplink">qualified first for the men's 50m free pistol event</a> in June. Szarenski has been involved in shooting since 1979. The Olympian is also part of the <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=daryl-szarenski/index.html" target="_hplink">U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program</a>.
For the first time since 1996, <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=eric-uptagrafft/index.html" target="_hplink">Sergeant First Class Eric Uptagrafft</a> (center) is returning to the Olympic Games. The rifle instructor for the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit will be competing for the U.S. along with his wife Sandra, who will also be competing in the pistol shooting event. Uptagrafft who has been <a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/olympics/player/eric-uptagrafft/1351689" target="_hplink">shooting since 1977</a>. He failed to qualify for the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Games, but will be competing in this year's <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/meet-2012-olympian-eric-uptagrafft-50-meter-prone-163100641--oly.html" target="_hplink">50m rifle prone</a> event. <em><span class='searchmatch'>Eric</span> <span class='searchmatch'>Uptagrafft</span> (center)</em>
Dutton has competed in the Olympics for two countries. He won team eventing gold medals for Australia in 1996 and 2000, helping the nation to its record third-straight team eventing gold medal. Dutton <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=phillip-dutton/index.html?etx=bio" target="_hplink">moved to Pennsylvania</a> in 1991 to train and began competing for the U.S. in 2006. London is his fifth-straight Olympics and second as a U.S. competitor.
Dutton grew up riding horses on his family's sheep and wheat farm in the small town of Nyngan in New South Wales, Australia; when he wasn't on the farm, he spent his time at pony club rallies and horse trials, according to <a href="http://www.phillipdutton.com/bio.php" target="_hplink">his website</a>. His family wondered when he'd <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=phillip-dutton/index.html?etx=bio" target="_hplink">"give up the pony club,"</a> until he won gold in 1996, NBC reports. Here he is pictured riding his horse Kheops Du Quesnay at True Prospect Farm, the Pennsylvania farm he owns with his wife Evie.
"In our sport, it's a bit difficult, because you just have to have the right horse at the right stage in their career," said Rich Fellers in a June 2012 <a href="http://www.opb.org/thinkoutloud/shows/rich-fellers/" target="_hplink">interview</a> on Oregon Public Radio. The West Coast native will bring his 16-year-old show horse, Flexible, to London this month. Fellers has been an athlete and "an animal lover" since childhood, but he did not plan to pursue riding and training horses as a career. But that all changed during his junior year of college, when his father told him that he would be more successful as an equestrian than building houses as a contractor, as he'd planned.
Fellers and his horse Flexible are quite the pair: In 2012 Fellers became the first American in 25 years to win the World Cup Jumping Final. The two were <a href="http://www.oregonlive.com/wilsonville/index.ssf/2012/04/wilsonville_equestrian_rich_fe.html" target="_hplink">the oldest pair in the competition</a>.
This will be Peters' third time at the Games. He rode with the U.S. Olympic dressage team and won a team bronze in the 1996 Games in Atlanta, and competed again in 2008 in Beijing, placing fourth individually. He was also an alternate in 2004. Dressage has been called "horse ballet," because the horse moves in small steps to music. A native of Germany, Peters became an American citizen four years before his first Olympic competition. He has been riding since he was 7, but only became interested in dressage when he was 15 and inherited his sister's dressage pony, he said in an <a href="http://www.dressage-news.com/?p=15042" target="_hplink">interview</a> with the French equestrian magazine "Grand Prix." Forty years later, "the idea of retirement has not yet crossed my mind," he says.
It's no surprise that <a href="http://usefnetwork.com/athletes/30/tina_konyot.aspx" target="_hplink">Tina Konyot</a> pursued a career based entirely on horseback -- as a <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=tina-konyot/index.html" target="_hplink">fifth generation horse trainer</a> with family members in the Circus Hall of Fame, there was probably no turning back.
<a href="http://www.worlddressagemasters.com/archives/rider/tina-konyot" target="_hplink">Konyot was shortlisted for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics </a>but never made it past the trials. She earned a place in the 2012 games by coming in a close second to defending champ Steffan Peters at Trials in June.<a href="http://usefnetwork.com/athletes/30/tina_konyot.aspx" target="_hplink"> Konyot and her horse Calecto V have been a winning team since 2007</a>, coming in first in eight Grand Prix in 2010 (seven of those back to back) and taking top honors in a number of events in 2011 and 2012.
<a href="http://usefnetwork.com/athletes/54/beezie_madden.aspx" target="_hplink">Elizabeth "Beezie" Madden</a> has been riding ever since she was 3 years old. Madden made her grand prix show jumping debut in 1985 and was named the United States Olympic Committee's Female Equestrian of the Year four years later.
Madden's wins set the stage for a seemingly nonstop stream of awards, including gold medals in team jumping in the <a href="http://www.teamusa.org/Athletes/MA/Elizabeth-Beezie-Madden.aspx#profile" target="_hplink">2004 and 2008 Olympic Games</a> and bronze for individual jumping in the 2008 Games.
Madden has also had the distinction of being the <a href="http://usefnetwork.com/athletes/54/beezie_madden.aspx" target="_hplink">first woman to meet a few equestrian milestones</a> -- she was the first women to earn more than $1 million for jumping and the first to reach the top three in the Gandini Show Jumping World Ranking List in 2004.
Janel "Jan" Ebeling, 53, <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=jan-ebeling/index.html" target="_hplink">rides the mare Rafalca and competes in dressage</a>. Ebeling has garnered media attention because <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/22/nation/la-na-ann-romney-dressage-20120522" target="_hplink">Rafalca and Ebeling's ranch/training facility are both part-owned by Ann Romney</a>, wife of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to the L.A. Times. She began riding again a decade ago after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, according to the L.A. Times. When Romney won silver and gold medals in 2005 and 2006 from the U.S. Dressage Federation, she credited Ebeling for helping her reach the top of the amateur ranks.
Ebeling's connection with Romney brought dressage to the attention of Stephen Colbert, who launched his own dressage tradition (check out the video). In an interview with NBC, <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/equestrian/jan-ebeling-colbert-video-is-hilarious.html" target="_hplink">Ebeling called the Colbert video "hilarious."</a>
At the 2011 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final, Ebeling and Rafalca were the <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=jan-ebeling/index.html" target="_hplink">top-placing Americans in both the Grand Prix Test and the Freestyle</a>, according to NBCOlympics.com. The site also notes that <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=jan-ebeling/index.html" target="_hplink">Ebeling and Rafalca won the Grand Prix Special at Dressage Getaway Inc.</a> and at the Mid-Winter Dressage Festival. They placed first in the Freestyle and second in the Grand Prix test. Ebeling credits his recent success to a long partnership between horse and rider. "We are like a couple - like an old, married couple, so we know each other well," <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/athlete=jan-ebeling/index.html" target="_hplink">Ebeling told NBCOlympics.com</a>.
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