Special Report

Athletes Whose Careers Lasted Into Their 40s and Beyond

Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

The old saying goes “life begins at 40.” For some athletes, their livelihoods didn’t stop at 40. 

Drawing on statistics and data from the family of professional sports reference sources and including material from various professional sports websites and other media sources, 24/7 Tempo has put together a list of athletes in a variety of sports whose longevity extended into their 41st year and beyond. (How long will the careers be for the 40 most successful athletes of the 21st century?)

There are many reasons why many accomplished athletes aren’t able to extend their careers past 40. Injuries are a major reason why athletes such as Joe DiMaggio, Gale Sayers, Bo Jackson, Yao Ming, and Bobby Orr were unable to play into their 40s. For Boston Celtics center Bill Russell, whose teams won 11 NBA titles during his tenure, he chose to retire at 34 years old because he said he had lost his competitive edge. Jim Brown, who ran roughshod over opponents in the NFL for nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns, decided to leave football the year he turned 30 and pursue a movie career. Hockey goaltender Ken Dryden called it a career in 1979 at age 31 after winning five Stanley Cups to continue his law studies.

Athletes on this list were not only blessed with exceptional ability, they were lucky to have avoided injuries. Some of these athletes reached the apex of their sport after a late start, such as boxer Eillen Olszewski, who became a professional pugilist in her 30s. Quarterback Warren Moon didn’t arrive in the NFL until he was 28, and eventually led his league in passing yardage twice and played into his 40s.

Click here to see athletes whose careers lasted into their 40s and beyond

Athletes such as receiver Jerry Rice and pitcher Phil Niekro had some of their greatest seasons after they turned 40. Tom Brady has become the poster child for 40-year-old-plus athletes turning the clock back. He led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the 2021 Super Bowl victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at age 43. (These are the oldest players in the NFL today.)

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Hank Aaron
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1954-1976
> Age at end of career: 42
> Achievements: Baseball Hall of Fame; hit 755 home runs; 1957 World Series winner

The accolades for the man that many believe to be the real home-run king are numerous. Aaron holds the record for runs batted in with 2,297; total bases with 6,856; and All-Star Game appearances with 25. Aaron also performed well in the postseason, posting a batting average of .362 with three home runs and nine runs batted in 17 games. The year he won his lone world championship with the Milwaukee Braves, 1957, was also the year he won his only most valuable player award. Even more impressive was his grace under pressure while pursuing baseball’s home-run record in the face of death threats from racists.

Source: Chris Graythen / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Kristin Armstrong
> Sport: Cycling
> Career: 2001-2012
> Age at end of career: 48
> Achievements: 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist, two-time World Champion; won 6 U.S. National Championships.

After Kristin Armstrong overcame osteoarthritis in both hips in 2001, she had to give up one athletic pursuit – the triathlon – but was able to focus just on cycling. She made history at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, coming out of retirement to win the gold medal in the women’s individual time trial. She became the first person to win three gold medals in the same event. Armstrong also became the oldest female cyclist to win an Olympic medal.

Source: Rick Stewart / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
> Sport: Basketball
> Career: 1969-1989
> Age at end of career: 41
> Achievements: Basketball Hall of Fame; NBA all-time scorer; 6-time NBA champion; 19-time All-Star

As Lew Alcindor, his dominance in collegiate basketball caused the NCAA to rewrite the rules. Then he rewrote the record books, leading UCLA to three straight national championships. As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he continued his brilliance in the NBA, becoming the sport’s all-time scoring leader, winning six NBA championships, and is the league’s only six-time most valuable player. He remains a prominent figure as an activist concerned with social justice.

Source: Jay Publishing / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

George Blanda
> Sport: Football
> Career: 1949-1976
> Age at end of career: 48
> Achievements: Football Hall of Fame; 4-time Pro Bowl selection; 3-time AFL champion

At the time of his retirement in 1975, George Blanda had played a record 26 seasons in the NFL and scored the most points in history. But for football fans of a certain age, they will never forget the season he had in 1970. Substituting for the injured quarterback Daryle Lamonica, Blanda at age 43 led the Oakland Raiders to four wins and a tie over a five-game period via last-second touchdown passes or field goals. Blanda also became the oldest player to start a championship game later that year, accounting for all the points in Oakland’s 27-17 loss to the Baltimore Colts.

Source: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Barry Bonds
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1986-2007
> Age at end of career: 42
> Achievements: All-time home run leader; 7-time NL MVP; 14-time All-Star

Barry Bonds is baseball’s all-time home-run leader with 762 round-trippers. His other credentials are impeccable as well – an unequaled seven most valuable player awards, 12 seasons of 100 or more runs batted in, and 2,558 walks, the most of any player. When he turned 40 in 2004, Bonds set baseball single-season records with 232 walks and a 1.421 OPS enroute to his seventh NL MVP award. But those numbers all come with an asterisk because of his involvement in the scandal with performance-enhancing drugs, which has kept the slugger from entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Source: Tom Pennington / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Tom Brady
> Sport: Football
> Career: 2000-present
> Age at end of career: Retired at 44 but announced return to professional football a few months later
> Achievements: 7-time Super Bowl winner; 3-time MVP; 5-time Super Bowl MVP; 15-time Pro Bowl selection

As a sixth-round pick by the New England Patriots in the 2000 draft, Tom Brady was not the most heralded quarterback to come into the NFL, but he certainly is now. He led the Patriots to six Super Bowl victories and was the MVP in four of them. Brady holds records for games won by a quarterback (263), most games started by a quarterback (343), most touchdown passes (661), and most passing yards (91,452).

Source: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Chris Chelios
> Sport: Hockey
> Career: 1983-2010
> Age at end of career: 48
> Achievements: Hockey Hall of Fame; 3-time Stanley Cup winner; 7-time All-Star

Like Gordie Howe in an earlier era, Chris Chelios had an amazingly long career in the brutal sport of hockey, playing until the age of 48. The Chicago-born Hall of Famer played for four teams over the course of 26 years. Or to put it another way, he started his career during President Ronald Reagan’s first term and ended it during President Barack Obama’s first term. Along the way, he was a member of three Stanley Cup-winning teams – two with the Detroit Red Wings and one with the Montreal Canadiens.

Source: Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Oksana Chusovitina
> Sport: Gymnastics
> Career: 1988-2016
> Age at end of career: 46
> Achievements: Competed at 2016 Summer Olympics at age 41

Gymnastics legend Oksana Chusovitina competed in eight Olympiads, including the Tokyo Games in 2021. Representing her native Uzbekistan, Chusovitina received a standing ovation after her final performance at age 46. She competed in her first Olympic Games in 1992 for the Unified team, composed of athletes from the former Soviet Union. She won a silver medal on the vault when she competed for Germany in 2008. Chusovitina was inducted into the Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2017.

Source: Al Bello / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Roger Clemens
> Sport: Football
> Career: 1984-2007
> Age at end of career: 44
> Achievements: 7-time Cy Young winner; 11-time All-Star; won pitching triple crown twice; 2-time World Series winner

There’s a lot of hardware in Roger Clemens’ home. His seven Cy Young awards are unmatched by any pitcher. He was in the top-10 Cy Young voting five other times in his career, with stints with the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees, and the Houston Astros. Clemens also is one of just 11 hurlers who has won a Cy Young and a most valuable player award the same year, 1986. Clemens led the National League with a 1.87 ERA in 2005, the year he turned 43. The accolades have not removed the taint from his involvement in the performance-enhancing drug scandal that has kept him out of baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Randy Couture
> Sport: Boxing
> Career: 1997-2011
> Age at end of career: 47
> Achievements: Became the only UFC fighter to win the heavyweight and light heavyweight belts.

Former Olympic wrestler Randy Couture became the only UFC fighter to win the heavyweight and light heavyweight belts. After he was knocked out by Chuck Liddell in 2005, Couture retired. Then he returned to the ring and beat Tim Sylvia to win the heavyweight championship at age 43.

Source: Joe Robbins / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Brett Favre
> Sport: Football
> Career: 1991-2010
> Age at end of career: 41
> Achievements: 1-time Super Bowl winner; 3-time MVP; 11-time Pro Bowl selection

Brett Favre was never a shrinking violet when it came to passing. And his exploits led the Green Bay Packers to their first NFL title in 30 years when they beat the New England Patriots in the 1997 Super Bowl. His reckless abandon did come with a price: he led the league in interceptions three times. Besides his reputation as a bomb-throwing quarterback, Favre is famous for retiring multiple times. After his second retirement, the three-time MVP played for the Minnesota Vikings in 2009, the season he turned 40, and led them to the NFC Championship Game, where they lost to the New Orleans Saints.

Source: Simon Hofmann / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Roger Federer
> Sport: Tennis
> Career: 1998-
> Age at end of career: N/A
> Achievements: 103 Singles titles; 20 total Grand Slam wins; ATP top-ranked player for five years

Roger Federer is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Since turning pro in 1998, the Swiss star has won 103 singles titles, including 20 Grand Slams, 16 of them singles championships. He’s won more than $130 million in prize money during his career. Federer has been recuperating from knee surgery and has expressed doubts about continuing his storied career this year – though his longtime coach, Ivan Ljubicic, has denied that he is ready to retire.

Source: Roger Kisby / Getty Images

George Foreman
> Sport: Boxing
> Career: 1969-1997
> Age at end of career: 48
> Achievements: Won boxing heavyweight title in 1973; regained title in 1994 to become oldest man to win crown at age 45

George Foreman won the boxing heavyweight gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and paraded around the ring with a small American flag in his glove. Five years later, he knocked out heavyweight world champion Joe Frazier in an upset. In 1974, Muhammad Ali beat Foreman for the title. Foreman retired in 1977 and returned to the ring at 38 years old. He regained the title in 1994 after he knocked out Michael Moorer.

Source: Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Julio Franco
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1982-2007
> Age at end of career: 48
> Achievements: 3-time All-Star; won batting title in 1991

Julio Franco played on three All-Star teams and won the 1991 batting title while playing for the Texas Rangers. The ageless native of the Dominican Republic played for six years for the Atlanta Braves and two years for the Mets after he turned 40. He hit over .300 in two of those seasons, played more than 100 games in four of those years, and finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .298.

Source: Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images

Darrell Green
> Sport: Football
> Career: 1983-2002
> Age at end of career: 42
> Achievements: Football Hall of Fame; 2-time Super Bowl winner; 7-time Pro Bowl selection

Defensive back Darrell Green is nicknamed “The Ageless Wonder,” and with good reason. Green played all of his 20 years in the NFL with Washington when the team was called the Redskins. The seven-time Pro Bowler was a key member of two of Washington’s Super Bowl champions. Of his 54 career interceptions, Green returned six of them for touchdowns.

Source: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Rickey Henderson
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1979-2003
> Age at end of career: 44
> Achievements: Baseball Hall of Fame; most stolen bases all time; 2-time World Series winner; 10-time All-Star; AL MVP

Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is the greatest leadoff hitter of all time. The 10-time All-Star stole 1,406 bases in his 25-year career, the most ever. He led the league in thefts 12 times, and three times he swiped over 100 bases in one season. Though he played for nine teams, Henderson played most of his career with Oakland A’s, where he won one of his two world championships.

Source: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

Gordie Howe
> Sport: Hockey
> Career: 1946-1980
> Age at end of career: 52
> Achievements: Hockey Hall of Fame; 4-time Stanley Cup winner; 6-time Hart Trophy winner

Gordie Howe seemed to defy time. He spent 25 years with the Detroit Red Wings, and was a part of four Stanley Cup champion teams. He won the Hart Trophy six times as the most valuable player in the NHL. Howe led the NHL in scoring six times. Howe was on the NHL All-Star roster twice after the age of 40. He played long enough to skate with sons Mark and Marty while playing for the Hartford Whalers for six seasons in the now-defunct World Hockey Association. Howe played his final season at age 52 when the Whalers joined the NHL.

Source: Harry How / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Bernard Hopkins
> Sport: Boxing
> Career: 1988-2016
> Age at end of career: 51
> Achievements: Became oldest light heavyweight champion at 46; 56 victories

Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins was a middleweight champion, registering 45 wins, 32 by knockout, against just two losses. He topped the achievement of George Foreman as the oldest boxing champion in 2011 when at age 46 he defeated Jean Pascal for the WBC light heavyweight title. In 2014, he unified the WBA and IBF light heavyweight titles at age 49 by beating Beibut Shumenov. Hopkins retired in 2016 after losing the WBC international light heavyweight title fight to Joe Smith Jr.

Source: Tim Umphrey / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Randy Johnson
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1988-2009
> Age at end of career: 45
> Achievements: Baseball Hall of Fame; 5-time Cy Young winner; 2001 World Series championship; won more than 300 games; 10-time All-Star

He was called “The Big Unit,” and Randy Johnson’s pitching ability lived up to his 6′-10″ frame. Besides winning 303 games, winning the Cy Young award five times (four times in a row), defeating the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, and striking out 4,875 batters, Johnson also tossed two no-hitters. The second one was a perfect game, over the Atlanta Braves in 2004 when he was 40, becoming the oldest pitcher to achieve that feat. That same year, he led all of baseball in strikeouts with 290, the eighth time he did so.

Bernard Lagat
> Sport: Track and field
> Career: 1994-2016
> Age at end of career: 41
> Achievements: Five-time Olympian (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016); won silver and bronze medal; at age 41, was the oldest member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team

Born in Kenya and now an American citizen, Lagat holds many U.S. distance running records. In 2007, he won the first-ever gold medal by an American in the 1,500 meters at the World Outdoor Championships. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Lagat, at age 41, placed fifth in the 5,000-meter run, three seconds behind the winner. He competed in five Olympiads and won a silver in the 1,500 in Athens in 2004, and a bronze in Sydney in 2000.

Source: Bettmann / Bettmann via Getty Images

Willie Mays
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1951-1973
> Age at end of career: 42
> Achievements: Baseball Hall of Fame; World Series winner; 24-time All-Star

Many fans and sportswriters believe Willie Mays was the greatest MLB player ever because he was the consummate five-tool player: He hit for average, hit for power, was fast, had a strong arm, and he could field. Mays had a lifetime batting average of .301, hit 660 home runs, led all of baseball in stolen bases four times, and won the Gold Glove 12 times. Military service robbed him of almost two full seasons, possibly preventing him from becoming the all-time home-run king. He was traded to the New York Mets from the San Francisco Giants in 1972 at age 41 and helped the Mets reach the World Series the following year.

Source: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Mark Messier
> Sport: Hockey
> Career: 1978-2004
> Age at end of career: 43
> Achievements: Hockey Hall of Fame; 6-time Stanley Cup winner; 5-time All-Star

Winning was what animated Mark Messier’s career, and he won a lot. He was an integral part of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty in the 1980s, when that team won five Stanley Cups. Messier was traded to the New York Rangers in 1991 and he had an immediate impact. The Rangers had the National Hockey League’s best regular-season record in 1991-92 and again in 1993-94. In 1994, Messier led the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup win in 54 years, and he scored the winning goal in Game 7 of the Final. Messier won the second of his two Hart Trophies with the Rangers as MVP of the NHL. Messier left the Rangers for the Vancouver Canucks in 1999, then returned to New York in 2000 at age 40 and played for four more seasons for the Rangers.

Source: Stephen Dunn / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Warren Moon
> Sport: Football
> Career: 1984-2000
> Age at end of career: 44
> Achievements: Football Hall of Fame; 9-time Pro Bowl selection

The early 1990s was a golden era for Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon. The gunslinging signal-caller led the American Football Conference in passing yards in 1990 and 1991, and threw a league-leading 33 touchdown passes in 1990. He led either the AFC or the NFC in pass completions three times. Moon, who began his career in the Canadian Football League, played parts of five seasons after the age of 40 for the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Source: Elsa / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Dikembe Mutombo
> Sport: Basketball
> Career: 1991-2009
> Age at end of career: 42
> Achievements: Basketball Hall of Fame; 8-time All-Star

Dikembe Mutombo became famous for wagging his finger at opponents after blocking their shot. He did that often. The 7′-2″ center from the Democratic Republic of the Congo led the National Basketball Association in blocked shots five years in a row. He became the first player to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year three times. Mutombo was also a strong rebounder, leading the league four times and averaging more than 10 rebounds a game for his career.

Source: Steve Powell / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Martina Navratilova
> Sport: Tennis
> Career: 1973-2006
> Age at end of career: 49
> Achievements: Won 18 Grand Slam titles, including all-time record 9 at Wimbledon (also 4 US Opens, 3 Australian Opens and 2 French Opens)

Born in Prague, the Czech expat became one of the greatest women’s tennis stars ever, dominating the sport in the 1970s and 1980s, with her speed, power, and will to win. After she defected to the United States in 1975, she won the first of her 18 Grand Slam tournament titles by defeating Chris Evert at Wimbledon. Navratilova won 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles championships and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She retired from singles play in 1994, but continued to play in doubles matches. Navratilova won the mixed doubles championship at Wimbledon in 2003, and won mixed doubles at the U.S. Open three years later.

Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Jack Nicklaus
> Sport: Golf
> Career: 1962-2003
> Age at end of career: 65
> Achievements: Won 73 PGA events; 18 Majors, including record 6 Masters championships

Jack Nicklaus can rightfully stake his claim as the greatest golfer in history. The “Golden Bear” has won 18 Majors, including a record six Masters titles. Nicklaus won three of his Majors after the age of 40. His last Major win was in 1986 when he won the Masters. Besides his 73 PGA Tour triumphs, Nicklaus finished second or tied for second 58 times. He was the PGA Tour’s top winner eight times.

Source: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Phil Niekro
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1964-1987
> Age at end of career: 48
> Achievements: Baseball Hall of Fame; won more than 300 games; 5-time All-Star

Throwing the knuckleball helped Phil Niekro to have a 24-year career in professional baseball. “Knucksie” logged more than 300 innings four times in his career, during which he won 318 games. Amazingly, he posted 121 wins after he turned 40. Niekro won his 300th game at age 46, a four-hit shutout, while pitching for the New York Yankees.

Eileen Olszewski
> Sport: Boxing
> Career: 2007-
> Age at end of career: n/a
> Achievements: At the age of 45, Olszewski became the oldest world flyweight champion, male or female, in 2013.

Eileen Olszewski, nicknamed “the Hawaiian Mongoose,” is former New York Knicks dancer who became a professional boxer at age 38. In 2008, a few months shy of her 40th birthday, she became the world’s oldest professional flyweight boxer to win the world title. She would go on to lose the world title and regain the championship. When she was 45, Olszewski became the oldest world flyweight champion, male or female, in 2013.

Source: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Gаylord Perry
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1962-1983
> Age at end of career: 44
> Achievements: Baseball Hall of Fame; won more than 300 games; 2-time Cy Young winner; 5-time All-Star

Gаylord Perry surreptitiously threw the illegal spitball to gain entry into the Hall of Fame. Over a 22-year career, the righthander won 314 games, won 20 games or more five times, and won the Cy Young award twice, winning the award in each league.

The North Carolina native pitched four years after he turned 40. He posted his 3,000th career strikeout two weeks after his 40th birthday and gained his 300th win three years later.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Jacques Plante
> Sport: Hockey
> Career: 1952-1975
> Age at end of career: 46
> Achievements: Hockey Hall of Fame; 6-time Stanley Cup winner; 7-time All-Star

Goaltender Jacques Plante was the gold standard of net-minders in the National Hockey League. He led the league in goals-against average seven times and won the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender. He was 42 years old when he last led the NHL in goals against average in 1970-71. Plante also won the league’s MVP award – the Hart Trophy – in 1962. Plante won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens. He won wherever he went, which included stints with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Edmonton Oilers.

Source: Stephen Dunn / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Jerry Rice
> Sport: Football
> Career: 1985-2004
> Age at end of career: 42
> Achievements: Pro football Hall of Fame; 3-time Super Bowl winner; 13-time Pro Bowl selection

Jerry Rice was one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. Hooking up with San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, the Hall of Famer caught 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns. Rice also set an NFL record of 76 career 100-yard receiving games. He was selected to 13 Pro Bowls, the last one in 2002 at age 40 with the Oakland Raiders, when he caught 92 passes for 1,211 yards.

Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Pete Rose
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1963-1986
> Age at end of career: 45
> Achievements: All-time hits leader; 3-time World Series winner; 17-time All-Star

Nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” for his relentless style of play, Pete Rose was obsessed with personal achievement. Over his 24-year career, most of which was with the Cincinnati Reds, Rose became baseball’s all-time leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), and plate appearances (15,890). He was crucial to the success of the vaunted “Big Red Machine” Reds teams that won back-to-back world championships in 1975 and 1976. At age 44 in 1985, he set the hits record for MLB. Rose has been denied entry to the Hall of Fame because he bet on baseball games he was involved in.

Source: Jonathan Daniel / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Nolan Ryan
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1966-1993
> Age at end of career: 46
> Achievements: Baseball Hall of Fame; all-time leaders in strikeouts and no-hitters; 1969 World Series winner; 8-time All-Star

As a young flamethrowing pitcher with the New York Mets, Nolan Ryan was nicknamed “Ryan’s Express.” The Texan threw very hard and was very wild, which helped him intimidate hitters over a 27-year career. Ryan is the all-time leader in strikeouts with 5,714. He struck out more than 300 hitters six times, including 301 in 1989 when he was 42 years old. Just as remarkable is his seven career no-hitters, the most of any pitcher, authoring the last one in 1991, at age 44.

Source: Evening Standard / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Sam Snead
> Sport: Golf
> Career: 1931-2001
> Age at end of career: 70
> Achievements: 82 PGA Tour victories; 7 Majors wins;

Sam Snead’s 82 PGA Tour victories has been equalled only by Tiger Woods. Snead won seven Majors, but failed to win the career Grand Slam, with the U.S. Open eluding him. He won the 1954 Masters, his last Major, at age 41.

Source: Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Dara Torres
> Sport: Swimming
> Career: 1984-2008
> Age at end of career: 41
> Achievements: 12 Olympic medals; competed in 5 Olympics

Dara Torres is among the most decorated American swimmers ever, winning 12 Olympic medals. She competed in five Olympiads, starting in 1984 in Los Angeles, winning a gold medal in the 4×100 freestyle relay. In 2006, at age 41, she competed in the 50-meter freestyle and 4×100 freestyle and medley relays. She won a silver medal in the 50 free, and gained silver in both relays.

Source: Andrew Redington / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Tom Watson
> Sport: Golf
> Career: 1971-2019
> Age at end of career: 69
> Achievements: 39 PGA Tour victories; 8 Majors victories

Tom Watson exuded a quiet confidence that earned him eight Majors victories over a career that included 39 PGA Tour wins. He won the 2018 Masters Tournament Par-3 contest at the age of 68, making him the oldest person to win that event. Watson enjoyed playing in the United Kingdom and won five British Open titles, beginning in 1975. In 2009, at age 59, Watson turned the clock back by almost winning his sixth British Open, losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink.

Source: FPG / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Ted Williams
> Sport: Baseball
> Career: 1939-1960
> Age at end of career: 41
> Achievements: Baseball Hall of Fame; last player to hit over .400; won triple crown twice; 19-time All-Star; won batting title 6 times

When the list of the greatest hitters of all time is read, it always includes Ted Williams – with good reason. Williams has the 10th-highest batting average of all time, and only hit under .300 once in a 19-year career. He hit 521 home runs. It was only the fact that he served parts of five years in the military that possibly kept him from being baseball’s all-time home-run leader. His OBP of .482 is the highest in baseball history. In 1960, his last year in baseball, Williams batted .316 at age 41. With a flair for the dramatic, he slugged a home run in his last at-bat.

Source: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Tiger Woods
> Sport: Golf
> Career: 1996-
> Age at end of career: N/A
> Achievements: 82 PGA Tour victories; 18 Majors wins; youngest player to win Masters at age 21

Tiger Woods has gone from being golf’s wunderkind to becoming a member of the sport’s pantheon. After turning pro in 1996, Woods dazzled the sports world by becoming the youngest player to win the Masters at age 21. His 82 PGA Tour wins tied him with Sam Snead for the most in the history of the sport, and his 18 Majors victories puts him second only to Jack Nicklaus’ 20. Personal problems and health issues have plagued his career, but he came back to win the PGA Tour Championship in 2018.

Source: Tom Pidgeon / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Steve Yzerman
> Sport: Hockey
> Career: 1983-2006
> Age at end of career: 40
> Achievements: Hockey Hall of Fame; 3-time Stanley Cup winner; 1-time All-Star; played all 22 years with Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman played his entire Hall of Fame hockey career with the Detroit Red Wings. As center for the Red Wings, Yzerman helped Detroit win three Stanley Cups. He amassed 1,755 points over a 22-year span, and topped the 100-point total in six consecutive seasons.

Source: Getty Images

Babe Didrikson Zaharias
> Sport: Golf
> Career: 1947-1955
> Age at end of career: 44
> Achievements: Won multiple LPGA championships. In 1954, she earned her sixth AP Female Athlete of the Year honor after winning the U.S. Women’s Open

Babe Didrikson Zaharias could do it all in sports, excelling in baseball, track and field, basketball, tennis, and golf. She won gold medals and set or tied world records in the 80-meter hurdles and the javelin, and took the silver medal in the high jump at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. She went on to completely dominate women’s professional golf in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1951, the year she turned 40, Zaharis won nine events on the LPGA tour. Three years later, after enduring colon cancer surgery, she won her sixth AP Female Athlete of the Year honor after winning the U.S. Women’s Open. Cancer eventually claimed her life in 1956.

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