Age is just a number: athletes who competed past 40

Rossi is in good company as he turns 40, here are a few famous faces who reached and surpassed the big 4-0

Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) will turn 40-years-old on Saturday 16th February, an incredible number for a sportsman who is still very much competing at the pinnacle of his sport.

Rossi’s achievements are outstanding. However, ‘The Doctor’ isn’t the first athlete to reach the big 4-0 while still competing at the top level, and explores some of those names who have previously achieved the hugely impressive feat.

Born in 1979, Rossi arrived in the world during the initial retirement of a sporting great: George Foreman. The American boxer, who took part in the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ match with Muhammad Ali, was a two-time heavyweight champion and an Olympic gold medalist. After coming out of retirement to fight at the age of 45, and retiring for good in 1997 aged 48, Foreman remains the oldest world heavyweight champion in history.

TC-Rossi, Jordan

Sticking with American greats, professional basketball legend Michael Jordan became the first 40-year-old to tally 43 points in a single NBA game. A true hero of American sport, Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, holding the NBA records for highest career regular season point scoring average (30.12 per game) and highest career playoff scoring average (33.45).

Another athlete who remains at the peak of his powers is American footballer Tom Brady. At the age of 41, Brady recently helped the New England Patriots claim the 2019 Super Bowl – his sixth overall, the highest of any player in history. In addition, Brady is the winningest quarterback in NFL history, and the only quarterback to reach 200 regular-season wins. For these – any many more – reasons, Brady is regarded as the best quarterback to grace the NFL.

TC-Rossi, Schumacher

We now go from the field to Formula One, with the next athlete to compete in their 40s being another who is regarded as one of the greatest of all time. Michael Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, won five consecutive F1 titles between 2000-2004 with Ferrari, before retiring at the end of the 2006 season with a still-unbeaten record of 91 career victories. Similar to other sporting greats, Schumacher announced his return to the sport and in 2010, at the age of 41, the German driver made his comeback with Mercedes before retiring again in 2012.

And speaking of the Dakar Rally, 48-year-old Nasser Al-Attiyah recently picked up his third title by winning the 2019 Dakar Rally. Rossi accompanied Al-Attiyah at the 2017 Qatar GP pre-event when he gave skeet shooting a go, a discipline the Qatari athlete has been competing in since 1996 and one he has an Olympic bronze medal to show for it, claimed at the 2012 London games.  

Rossi will go down as an Italian sporting hero, likewise to one of the greatest football goalkeepers of all time – 2006 World Cup winner Gianluigi Buffon. With 176 international caps, Buffon is the most capped Italian national team player of all time and the most-capped European international player ever. Now aged 41, Buffon continues to perform at the highest level for French champions Paris Saint-Germain.


And finally, why not end on another athlete who made a name for himself on two wheels? Chris Horner, an American road racing cyclist, became the oldest cycling Grand Tour winner at the age of 41 when he won the Vuelta a España in 2013.

Many athletes have performed at the elite level of their sport up to the age of 40 and beyond. Rossi is among them and the rider from Tavullia’s story isn’t finished yet…

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