Maybe it’s modern medicine, maybe it’s greater access to information, or maybe they’re just, in fact, ridiculously talented. Some sports are being bossed by particular athletes for longer than usual, but why?
Take tennis for example. In 1992, the average age of the top 10 male players was 23.2 years. It was 24.5 in 2002 and 29.7 in 2015. Incredibly, the first Grand Slam of 2017, the Australian Open, was won by two 35-year-olds – Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
It’s the New “Moneyball” Calculus in the Game: Who Will Defy Time? And for how long? Take a look at the top 10 athletes over the age of 35 in sport today.
Roger Federer and Serena Williams
At 38, Roger Federer has long outlived his time as one of the best tennis players in the world. Nevertheless, in January 2017, he silenced skeptics and critics by lifting the Australian Open. Federer’s victory over his longtime arch-rival Rafael Nadal was the Swiss’ 18th Grand Slam victory and served as a timely reminder of how incredibly talented he is. There can never be another player like him again.
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Serena Williams has had an illustrious professional career spanning 22 years. She has claimed an incredible 23 major titles since turning professional in 1995 – the latest at this year’s Australian Open. Unlike Federer, Williams hasn’t slipped down the rankings amid big performances. Instead, she has shown incredible stability and power during her thirties and at 39 years old is still the number 1 ranked female tennis player on the American planet.
The 35-year-old Canadian alpine skier recently stunned the skiing world as he claimed victory in the Super G event at the 2017 World Championships, and later became the oldest skiing world champion in history. This was the second World Championship gold for the skiing legend and cements his place as one of Canada’s best skiers ever.
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Because his zip hasn’t worn out yet, it’s hard to understand that Tom Brady is now 41. One of the first noticeable signs of declining potential for the aging quarter-back is his passing game slowing down, but in his fifth Super Bowl-winning career, Brady was as dominant as ever. In the pre-playoffs, the Patriots QB claimed 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only two interceptions over the course of 12 games. And don’t even get us started on what was the most incredible Super Bowl comeback in history!
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He has been entertaining football fans around the world on and off the field for nearly 20 years. The confident Swede had always been tipped to take the illustrious Premier League and his chance came in the form of Manchester United at the age of 35. In his own words, Zlatan said the timing of his move was right as everyone else believed he was too old for a competitive English game. In typical style, “Ibra” has had one of the most prolific seasons of any Manchester United striker since the fictitious era, scoring 20 goals in 3 months of football.
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Bisping, a middleweight UFC belt-holder, is the oldest of any current division champion in the sport. At 37, Bisping began his career as a light heavyweight, but moving to middleweight in 2008 was one of the best of his career. In one of the biggest MMA upsets in history, Bisping landed a KO in the first round on Luke Rockhold to lift the belt in June 2016. He has since defended his belt against UFC legend Dan Henderson, whom he defeated by unanimous decision in October.
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Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson
Tiger Woods’ impact on golfers’ physical ability has changed the face of golf dramatically over the past decade, with newer, more athletic golfers coming through the ranks and dominating the game’s biggest rounds. Think Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Jason Day. But, while golf continues to be a youth sport, last summer’s British Open was the stage of one of the most epic major battles in recent times between 46-year-old Phil Mickelson and 40-year-old Henrik Stenson. Stenson eventually came out on top, lifting the claret jug with a record-breaking -20 total. The current world rankings show that his class in the sport is not temporary, with Stenson at number 3 and Mickelson at number 20.
Armstrong, a professional road-racer, is one of the best Olympic cyclists in history. Now 43 years old, her story is uniquely impressive. Armstrong, a three-time Olympian, has won 3 Olympic golds in the time trial event. At London 2012, Armstrong announced his retirement from cycling, after adding a second gold to his medal from Beijing 2008. However, in a remarkable turn of events she returned to a professional turn in 2015, before winning her third straight Olympic gold medal in Rio last summer.
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At 39, Buffon still reigns supreme as the first-choice goalkeeper for European giants Juventus and the Italian national side. He is currently the most expensive goalkeeper since a €53m transfer from Parma to Juventus in 2001 and is widely regarded by players, managers and pundits as the greatest goalscorer of all time. They have won 17 domestic titles and one UEFA Cup at club level, while they also captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, individually named runners-up for the Ballon d’Or after their performances that year. has gone.
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The Dallas Mavericks have relied on Dirk Nowitzki to lead their team since their debut in 1998. The veteran power forward used an unconventional style and a golden fadeaway jumper to cement himself as a first-ball Hall of Fame member. At 38 years old, Nowitzki has clocked enough minutes to break even the toughest bodies – nearly 50,000 as of February 2017. It’s hard to tell whether this season will be the last time Nowitzki takes to the NBA floor. If so, basketball would lose one of its all-time great players and characters.
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