When looking back on most athletes after they retire we focus on the prime of their career. That window of time is usually between five and seven years when a particular athlete was at his or her best. Depending on the sport and even the gender, that range of time can vary. Female tennis players rarely compete at their best into their 30's while male professional golfers may just be hitting their stride at that time.
Playing at the highest level of your sport past your prime used to be a need for many athletes who were not paid as well as they are today and if they stopped playing professionally these athletes would not be able to support their families. Now a days professional athletes, if they are smart with their money, can avoid the same financial worries as their predecessors.
Athletes of the past may have had a large financial reason to continue playing for as long as possible, while modern day athletes have the benefit of the latest science and training information to make playing while getting long in the tooth possible. With the knowledge of anatomy and nutrition, professional athletes of today have the information to best take care of their body and help keep it fit and strong for longer so they can avoid injury and stay strong and fit as they advance in age.
There is also career saving and prolonging surgeries that allow players to keep playing longer and if your sport does not outlaw supplements like human growth hormone or steroids than an athlete can outfit a 40-year-old body with the muscle mass, strength and agility of a 25-year-old.
Regardless of the era or the sport or the gender, we as fans cannot help but admire any athlete who can continue to compete at the highest level well after their best before date has passed.
Here is a list of the top 10 athletes who dominated at an old age.
10 10. Jack Nicklaus
9 9. Satchel Paige
8 8. Jimmy Connors
7 7. George Blanda
6 6. Randy Couture
The UFC is not a sport for the faint of heart. The intensive training and physical punishment that these competitors have to endure while preparing for and then fighting in the octagon is unlike any other sport. The potential for serious and permanent injury is incredibly high so any vulnerability that a fighter may have is frighteningly dangerous. Age could be seen as a vulnerability, but not for Randy Couture who was competing in mixed martial arts main events into his late 40's, maintaining the strength, stamina and quickness that MMA requires.
5 5. Martina Navratilova
4 4. Brett Favre
Brett Favre was the scrappy little QB that could while playing for the Green Bay Packers. He was at the top of his profession because of his unbreakable will to win and shotgun arm that could never be outrun by a receiver down field. As Favre aged, the beard and hair got a little more grey and he seemed to walk with a little slower step, but out on the field he could still scramble and sling that arm back as if he were 25 years old. Favre's accomplishments into his old age are quite something considering how durable he was throughout his career, rarely missing games and taking a mountain of punishment from defensive lineman blitzing for sacks.
3 3. Nolan Ryan
2 2. Gordie Howe
1 1. George Foreman
Today he is known for his big smile more so than for his devastating punching power. George Foreman was an intimidating heavyweight boxer that took out Joe Frazier and battled Muhammad Ali. He was a great heavyweight champion, but his iconic status was achieved when at the age of 45, Foreman reclaimed the world heavyweight title. As he entered the ring at 45, he looked the part of the older man as he was clearly not in the type of condition that his younger self exhibited and never being the quickest boxer, his mobility was reduced even more, to almost a complete stand still. Because of all this, he took a great deal of punishment in that title bout, but absorbed the punishment and wore his opponent down and still having that awesome punching power, he knocked out Michael Moorer to become champ once more.
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