With Zlatan Ibrahimovic recently having signed a contract extension at AC Milan which will see him play Champions League football at the age of 40 next season, we’ve looked through the annals of modern sporting history and picked out six other star athletes who defied the ageing process.
Tom Brady is regarded by many as the greatest quarterback in history, having won more Super Bowls than any other player and setting an impressive number of records.
Brady may yet break a few more; he recently signed a contract extension with Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the end of the 2022 NFL season – at which point he will be 45 years old.
His seven Super Bowl wins is an all-time record and Brady is one of the most successful players in the history of the NFL, having won far more regular season games than any other starting quarterback.
He is also the oldest player to win the season’s Most Valuable Player award and the only player to do so after turning 38.
When he won the most recent of his three MVP awards in 2017, he was nearly three years older than the previous record holder Peyton Manning had been.
After winning a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics, Foreman turned professional the following year and took just three and a half years to become world heavyweight champion.
He retired suddenly in 1977 but returned to the sport a decade later, culminating in a shock win over 26-year-old Michael Moorer in 1994 at the age of 45. This victory saw him regain the WBA belt he had lost to Muhammad Ali over two decades earlier.
Foreman remains the oldest boxer ever to win a world heavyweight title, relinquishing the belt he won from Moorer at the age of 46. He is also one of the youngest heavyweight champions of all time, with only five boxers having held a major belt at a younger age.
When Foreman knocked out the previously undefeated Joe Frazier to win the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles in 1973, he needed just two rounds to do so. Only Sonny Liston has knocked out a reigning heavyweight champion in a title fight more quickly.
Gordie Howe attended a training camp with the New York Rangers during World War II and was still playing at the top level in the 1980s.
At the time of his retirement, he was the all-time leader for appearances, goals and assists in the NHL. His career lasted so long that he was able to play alongside two of his sons in his final season.
Not only is Howe the oldest player to make an appearance in the NHL – doing so a month shy of his 53rd birthday – he is also the only player to ever score 100 points in a season after the age of 40.
He remains one of only two players to score 800 goals in his NHL career, the other being the great Wayne Gretzky. In a fitting passing of the torch, Howe’s final all-star game in 1980 was Gretzky’s first.
When Phil Mickelson turned 33, he didn’t have a single major to his name but at the age of 50 he has six of golf’s top honours in his trophy cabinet.
He made history at the 2021 PGA Championship, becoming the first golfer to win a major in his fifties. That triumph made him the first golfer to win PGA tournaments across a 31-year span.
Martina Navratilova was already the most-decorated player of the Open Era when she first retired in 1995, aged 38. She returned in 2000 and went on to add a further three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles to her name.
Her victory in the 2003 Australian Open mixed doubles made her just the third player in history to complete a “boxed set” of major titles by winning the singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles at all four majors.
This victory also made her the oldest major champion in tennis history, a record she extended by winning the 2006 US Open, just over a month before her 50th birthday.
Navratilova has won more titles in the open era than any other player in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. She has won a staggering 354 titles in total, which is 165 clear of her nearest rival, Chris Evert.
Torres first represented the United States at the 1984 Olympic Games aged 17, winning a gold medal as part of the 4×100 metres freestyle team.
She would end up becoming the first American swimmer to qualify for five iterations of the games and narrowly missed out on a sixth in 2012 at the age of 45.
Over the course of her career, she set world records in three events and won a total of 12 Olympic medals.
Returning from a seven-year absence from competitive swimming, Torres won five medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics, including two golds.
This made her the oldest woman to win an Olympic medal in swimming, at the age of 33. She also won three silver medals at the age of 41 in the 2008 games in Beijing.
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