For the last few weeks we've been focusing on the young and athletic--a feast of beautiful toned bodies at the peak of their fitness. But if you think the Olympics is just a young person's game, think again. Great Britain's show jumping team includes a grandfather, a guy with a hip replacement and a combined age of 209.
I remember Nick Skelton, now 58, in his first days of stardom in the 1980s. He was very cute and I accidentally followed him into the gents loo at Stoneleigh Horse Show to get his autograph. He's been competing in his seventh Olympic Games this month, with Team GB's oldest Olympian John Whitaker, 61, John's brother Michael Whitaker, 56, and Ben Maher, who's a mere stripling of 33.
So what makes these guys tough enough to compete at the world class level at a time when most people are slowing down? And don't say 'the horse does all the work' -- as a former competitive horse rider myself I can tell you that is a heap of manure. My goodness you have to be fit to ride successfully!
I think it's the sheer pig-headedness of being an Old Fart that's the key. Horsey people are probably the best at becoming magnificent Old Farts; farmers are pretty good and dog-owners come in a close third. Cat-owners are, of course in their own category of mad, bad and dangerous to know but a previously un-acknowledged qualification to be an Old Fart does require you to be able to medicate your animals without losing an arm - and you have to own them. Nobody owns a cat.
I'm proud to say I'm a fairly impressive Old Fart myself, at 60. Are you? Here are my top ten attributes of a Genuinely Magnificent Old Fart.
1. The most sensible conversations you experience are with your dog/horse/llama/chickens even if 90% of the discussions are entirely within your own head and the rest of them are on Facebook where your dog has more friends than you do.
2. You'll exercise said beasts daily because they need it whether or not you are beyond exhaustion, have a leg hanging off or there's three feet of snow. And as you suffer through the hail, the wind and the pain threshold, you'll be comforting yourself with the thought of a nice cup of tea and a ginger nut.
3. You can comfortably make one bottle of wine last all weekend between the two of you. And you can drink anyone below 40 under the table when they're paying.
4. If you're a woman, you will leave a trail of paper hankies falling out of your sleeve wherever you go. But for weddings, funerals and other posh events you always carry beautiful, embroidered linen hankies which never see the light of day.
5. You don't do small talk which is why you generally only go to weddings, funerals and other posh events for the free food (and you'll take a doggy bag).
6. You don't care a jot whether you've got a good voice; you'll sing as loud as you want to whenever you want to and to both Neil Diamond and Soft Machine.
7. You've still got one elderly relative alive and compos-mentis in their 90s and they still tell you off for not cleaning the house properly, not taking proper care of the animals, for how you dress and what you cook which is why you grit your teeth and never do that to your own descendents.
8. Your clothes are up to 20 years old and come from the local Town and Country store -- or from the very best charity shops. Whenever you're in London, you shop at Oxfam in Marylebone High Street and Highgate and you're fairly sure you got some of Prince Charles's cast-offs last time you went to Cirencester. What's more, you love your comfortable old clothes so much that you'll even darn them to keep them going for another year.
9. Your favourite swear word is still 'bloody'--which goes with everything, including Mary.
10. Anyone can rely on you for half an onion, white sugar, real tea and coffee, biscuits, chocolate, organic carrots, duct tape, jump leads and WD40. But never ever for a Werther's Original.
Can you add any more Magnificent Old Fart Attributes in the comments below? I'd love to read them.
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