Japan goes bananas for 71-year-old horseman

Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:52pm EDT
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By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese dressage rider Hiroshi Hoketsu looks and dresses more like a soccer manager in his early 50s than the world's oldest Olympian at 71-years-old. Meet the Benjamin Button of this year's London Olympics.

A national celebrity, Hoketsu greets you with a firm handshake, his sharp wit and fierce determination striking you immediately.

"I don't know how you're supposed to feel at 71," Hoketsu told Reuters in an interview on Thursday, sitting bolt upright in a jacket and smart yellow tie.

"I'm the same physique as I was at university," added the German-based rider, who first competed for Japan as a 23-year-old show jumper at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

"There's no special secret. I get up about 7. I used to get up at 5, go riding, go home and then leave for the office for 30 years when I was working. Now I can sleep until 7. Luxury."

Whippet-thin at 1.68 meters (5.5 feet) tall and 62 kilos 136.4 lbs), Hoketsu steers clear of German food as much as possible.

"I cook four times a week and avoid oily food," he said. "I don't eat many sausages."

The poster boy for a health food company, Hoketsu and his banana-crazy mount Whisper are creating quite a buzz worldwide in the run-up to the London Games in July and August.   Continued...