Hiroshi Hoketsu Oldest Competitor

Hiroshi Hoketsu Oldest Competitor, The crowd did not go wild for Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan as he rode Whisper out on to the sand of the Greenwich Park equestrian arena at one o’clock on Thursday afternoon. It wasn’t a question of bad manners; more a question of consideration. A stadium-sized roar to acknowledge the arrival of the Games’ oldest competitor – a ramrod-straight and dapper man of 71 – would have frightened the mare and probably embarrassed her rider.

Hoketsu, after all, had not travelled from his home in Germany to fly the flag for older athletes, nor had he come to court the sympathy vote.

He had come to London, as he went to his first games in Tokyo in 1964, and to Beijing four years ago, to compete and, hopefully, to win.

And beneath a bright sky that turned Whisper’s brown coat a dark gold, that is what he tried his best to do.

With a formal nod, Hoketsu began his individual dressage test, guiding his 15-year-old horse around the arena for the benefit of the judges, who sat scrutinising their every move from seven shady huts.

His white-gloved hands keeping her on a tight rein, Whisper executed a neat diagonal cross of the arena before pausing and reversing neatly to one corner. Seven minutes later, after she had appeared to jog on the spot, skip and goose-step her way around the arena, Whisper came to a stop in front of the judges. As the first drops of rain began to fall from a greying sky, the crowd burst into applause and Hoketsu raised his hat in acknowledgement.

And with that, the oldest Olympian rode out of the arena, to finish 17th out of 24.

At the top of Thursday’s dressage table, in first and second, were two British riders: Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer. Several places behind was Rafalca, the US horse part-owned by Ann Romney, the wife of the Republican party’s presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

If Hoketsu was disappointed by his performance, he gave no sign of it. At one point, not too long ago, it looked as if he would not be coming to London at all.

Whisper, who is getting on a bit, had been poorly with bad legs and tendinitis until a new vet helped get her back to form. It is not known, however, whether he also managed to cure her of her phobia of big screens: after finishing 35th in the individual dressage in Beijing, Hoketsu pointed the finger at technology. “My horse just hates to see that moving screen,” he said.

Whisper seemed to have no such problems on Thursday afternoon and her rider blamed any failings on himself.

“I made two or three mistakes, which I shouldn’t have, so I’m not totally happy, but it wasn’t terribly bad,” he said after the event. And the crowd, he added, had been “very good”.
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