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Iditarod

Seavey, Wright show there's no age limit for greatness

  • Author:
  • Updated: March 17
  • Published March 14

Mitch Seavey poses with Pilot, one of his lead dogs, after winning the Iditarod on Tuesday. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Roxy Wright, Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship winner at age 66.

Mitch Seavey, Iditarod champion at age 57.

Cue the AARP jokes.

Two of Alaska's biggest sporting events have crowned champions who qualify for the senior discount at Denny's, developments that beg to be commemorated with T-shirts or bumper stickers.

These Alaska geezers truly kick ass. At 66, Wright outdueled a 34-year-old man, Buddy Streeper, who is sprint mushing's top competitor right now. At 57, Seavey set a record pace to deny his 30-year-old son, Dallas, a fourth straight victory.

Their achievements are ones for the ages, not just the aged. Seavey's Iditarod record — 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes, 13 seconds — sliced nearly eight hours off his son's 2016 record and left the mushing world agape Tuesday.

Roxy Wright with lead dog Cloud after winning the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship sled dog race last month. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

It left us wondering what other sports have produced similarly vintage champions. We aren't talking age-group champions — we're talking people of a certain age who competed at the highest level of their sport, against the best athletes of any age, and came out on top.

Here's a sampling of what we found:

Oscar Swahn is a six-time Olympic medalist from Sweden who won his first three medals in the shooting sports at age 60 in the 1908 Summer Olympics. He was 64 when he won two medals, one of them gold, at the 1912 Games — where one of his top competitors was his son. At age 72, he won a silver medal in the double shot running deer contest at the 1920 Games.

More recently, barrel racer Mary Burger of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, became pro rodeo's oldest champion at age 68. She secured her world championship at December's National Finals Rodeo.

Auto racing has a number of oldies but goodies. In 1997, at age 55, Dick Trickle became the oldest driver to win a NASCAR race. In 1993, at age 53, Mario Andretti became the oldest to win an Indy Car race. In 1988, at age 50, Bobby Allison became the oldest Daytona 500 winner.

Bowling's oldest PBA champion: Mark Williams, who was 57 when he won the 1995 Northwest Classic.

Golf's oldest PGA champion: Sam Snead, who was 52 when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open.

Golf's oldest LPGA champion: Beth Daniel, who was 46 when she won the 2003 Canadian Women's Open.

Pro wrestling's oldest champion: Terry Funk, who was 53 when he won an Extreme Championship Wrestling title in 1997.

Baseball's oldest MLB position player was Julio Franco, who retired at 49 in 2007. In 2012, at age 49, Jamie Moyer became the oldest MLB pitcher to record a win.

Hockey's Gordie Howe played 83 games for the 1979-80 Hartford Whalers at age 52.

Football's George Blanda retired from the NFL after the 1975 season at age 48. In his final game for the Oakland Raiders, he kicked a 41-yard field goal and an extra point in a 16-10 loss to the Steelers in the AFC championship.

Boxing's oldest champion: Bernard Hopkins, who won world titles at ages 46, 48 and 49, the last coming in 2014 when he claimed the WBA light heavyweight title.

Also worth mentioning is the man Hopkins replaced as boxing's oldest champion — George Foreman. Before he starting selling grills, Foreman made a living punching people in the grill. In 1994, he was two months shy of his 46th birthday when he knocked out 26-year-old Michael Moorer to become the IBF and WBA world heavyweight champion.

"The age of 40 is not a death sentence," Foreman reportedly said.

And as Roxy Wright and Mitch Seavey have so ably demonstrated this winter, neither is the age of 50, or the age of 60.

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