These elders continued to dominate their respective sports even as they got older—and made other players look like rookies in the process.
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Bartolo Colon, Baseball
Big Sexy has defied expectations of what an athlete can do after his 40th birthday. The 5’11”, 285-pound righty has been with the New York Mets for three seasons (2014-16), helping the team make the World Series in 2015 while going 14-13 record with a 4.16 ERA. The well-rounded pitcher has also shown off his bat skills—on May 7, 2016, Colon became the oldest player in baseball history to hit his first career home run at 42 years and 349 days old. Colon won the AL Cy Young Award back in 2005, but like wine, he has gotten better with age, making the 2016 All-Star team at the ripe age of 43.
The 41-year-old qualified for his fifth Olympics after a stunning come-from-behind victory in the the 5,000 meters at the U.S. trials for Rio 2016. The veteran ran like an athlete half his age—recording a 52.8-second final lap—to take first place in the event. Lagat was able to vault ahead of fellow Olympian Galen Rupp, who was leading with less than 500 meters to go after already qualifying for the U.S. team in the 10,000 meters and the marathon.
“Mr. Hockey” was one of the toughest players in the NHL for the duration of his career—and that’s saying something, considering Howe played in professional games over five decades. How made the All-Star team twice after turning 40, and after making his final NHL appearance at 52, the Detroit Red Wings legend suited up for the IHL's Detroit Vipers in 1997 at the age of 69.
The “Big Unit” established himself as a Hall of Fame pitcher before turning 40, but he didn't slow down once he hit that age. Johnson pitched a perfect game and led the National League with nearly 300 strikeouts in the season when he was 40—and he went on to pitch in the major leagues until he was 46. The lanky southpaw finished with a winning record in each of his last six seasons in the MLB after hitting the big 4-0.
The soft-throwing lefty pitched until he was 49, becoming the oldest pitcher in MLB history to win a game and record an RBI. The longtime Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher played for eight teams in his 25-year career, winning 269 games with a fastball that basically only hit the low 80s. Moyer used his deft touch around the strike zone to survive, although he finished his career with the most home runs allowed by a pitcher with 522.
The Golden Bear won three major titles after turning 40—including a legendary performance at the 1986 Masters that saw him shoot a 6-under 30 to make his mark as the oldest winner in tournament history. So it's no wonder that Nicklaus made the Men’s Fitness list of the best golf shots ever with his strike on the 16th hole, cementing his legacy as one of the best golfers in history.
Paige spent 18 years playing in the Negro Leagues before getting his shot to play in the MLB at the age of 42. The Kansas City, Missouri native had already established himself as one of the most skilled pitchers of all time and he continued that in the majors, posting a solid 3.29 ERA in six seasons playing for the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Kansas City Athletics. Paige pitched his final game at the age of 59 while playing for the A’s in 1965, giving up just one hit in three innings. When it was all said and done, Paige pitched for 40 years in professional baseball.
Ichiro Suzuki has proven to be an ageless wonder as a baseball player—at 42 years old, he's basically an every-game player for the Miami Marlins. The former Seattle Mariners star continues to man the outfield with the same vigor and Gold Glove-caliber defense that he mustered when he made his MLB debut at 27. Suzuki reached 3,000 career MLB hits during the 2016 season, a mark that only 29 other players had reached before him—plus, he did it in the most Ichiro-like way possible: Suzuki smashed a ball to deep right-field—showing off the power he still has at his age—knocking it off the wall before racing into third base for a triple.
Suzuki’s age also made for some fun when the Marlins took on the New York Mets on August 31, 2016, as Suzuki faced off against fellow over-40 pal Bartolo Colon. The duo combined to have the oldest batter-pitcher matchup (86 years, 48 days old) since Jamie Moyer (another over-40 list member) faced Henry Blanco during the 2012 season.