The full range of athletes on the USA Olympic team in Beijing demonstrates that age and family responsibilities are not the barriers to participation that you might think. Four members of the team are over 50. After training for five decades, sailor John Dane III became an Olympiad for the first time as a 58 year-old. And at age 56, shooter Libby Callahan becomes the oldest female Olympic participant of all time.
Just as significant are the 20 mothers on the USA Olympic team, including past medalists – swimmer Dara Torres, basketball player Lisa Leslie, and softball player, Jennie Finch. Dara Torres stands out as a role model for any mothers wondering if it is too late to begin again. Now age 41, she began participating in the Olympics twenty-four years ago, swimming in the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000 Games. Retiring, getting married and wanting to start a family, she skipped the 2004 Games and had a child two years ago. Swimming for fitness after the birth of her daughter, Tessa, she thought she was done with competitive swimming but found that her times were better than ever.
Dara marched in the Beijing opening ceremonies 8 long years after her last Olympics with 9 medals to her credit, the most of any USA athlete coming into these Games. Swimming in individual and relay team competition, she won 3 silver medals this week, losing gold in the freestyle individual event by only one one-hundredth of a second. She now can boast of a record 12 Olympic medals in her career – so far! Asked “what will you tell your daughter, Tessa, about your record at this Olympics,” Dara said, “You don’t have to put an age limit on your dreams.”
Like Dara and these other athletes, answer with a resounding, “I can do it!” when you question whether you are too old to reach for your goals. It’s never too late to challenge yourself. Use your maturity and drive as tools to make you more efficient as you strive to achieve. As Dara herself said, “To me, if it helps anyone else out there who is in their middle-aged years, putting off something they couldn’t do because they thought they were too old or maybe because they had a child, they thought they couldn’t balance things as a parent – if it shows anyone you can do it, I’m absolutely thrilled.”