Some athletes just don’t slow down. Typically, by the time most elite athletes hit their mid-30s, things begin to deteriorate. As they become older, their body finds it tougher to recover and perform to the same level as before. However, that isn’t the case for every athlete. Some age like fine wine and are almost even better than they were before. They’re not common, but that’s what makes them fascinating.
So today, we’re going to take a look at 40 athletes who shone over the age of 40. Each one of these sports stars is an inspiration. They showed much younger stars that age is just a number. In short, it’s amazing what self-discipline and dedication can do to prolong a career. Check out the list via Men’s Journal.
40. Drew Brees
What an NFL career Brees had. The New Orleans Saints icon was one of the best quarterbacks in the league throughout his long record-setting career. A Super Bowl champion in 2009, it’s easy to forget that the 13-time Pro Bowler started his career with the San Diego Chargers. At the age of 42, Brees is rumored to finally decide to walk away. But he was still productive even over the age of 40 for New Orleans.
Brees is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and pass completions. A two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Brees was incredibly effective. He managed to stand out during an era of amazing quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan. In 2018, at the age of 40, he finished second in the MVP award vote. He deserves respect for this and also his charitable efforts off of the field.
One of the most successful boxers of all-time, Mayweather retired with a majestic unbeaten record of 50-0. He was one of the sport’s most elite defensive stylists and used this to prolong his career. Furthermore, he was excellent at selecting opponents at the right moment in their careers. ‘Money’ was the wealthiest active athlete on the planet before his official retirement at the age of 42.
Even though most of Mayweather’s success came before the age of 40, he still produced one of the most incredible boxing events ever. When he was 41, he fought Conor McGregor in a mega-money clash in Las Vegas. Mayweather duly won a fight that had the second-highest number of pay-per-view buys ever. In terms of competitive success, it may not count for much, but he definitely milked the cash cow.
A 13-time NHL All-Star, Jagr was magnificent throughout his career. Technically, it’s still not over because he continues to play at the age of 48 in his native Czechia. Jagr holds the record for the oldest player to score a hat trick at the grand old age of 45. Before he left, he was also the league’s most active player. Furthermore, he continued to produce elite numbers despite his advancing years.
At the age of 44, he led the league in scoring with the Florida Panthers. This was outrageous but fantastic from the grizzled veteran. He was also the league’s scoring champion five times as well as winning other individual awards. There are increasing numbers of European players in the NHL but Jagr paved the way for them. He also wants to play until the age of 50. It’s highly possible.
One of the best placekickers in NFL history, Vinatieri loves football more than anything else in the world. A three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, Vinatieri then spent 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He was 47 when he left Indiana but didn’t officially retire because he still had a desire to play. The snow-bearded veteran was the league’s oldest player during his last period of activity.
2019 was his final year with the Colts but one of highs and lows. He broke many of Gary Anderson’s longheld records but also had some of the worst games of his career. However, to continue for seven years past the age of 40 is something remarkable. Sure, elite placekickers suffer less damage than most players, but it’s still remarkable to maintain his level of professionalism for so long.
Oleinik’s MMA career simply doesn’t make sense. The Russian UFC fighter is one of the oldest fighters on the promotion’s roster. At the age of 43, he was still the 10th-ranked heavyweight in the world. An elite grappler, Oleinik’s ability to overwhelm his opponents with technical BJJ makes him a bad match-up for many of the division’s sloppier fighters. In short, he can beat anybody on this day.
Incredibly, Oleinik made his MMA debut in 1996. To put this in perspective, that’s just three years after the UFC’s first event. Furthermore, it’s five years before the implementation of MMA’s unified rules. Somehow, ‘The Boa Constrictor’ continues to battle and defy his age. He has almost 80 fights on his professional record but shows no signs of wanting to slow down. But he’s so good, he doesn’t need to.
Maldini’s name is synonymous with A.C. Milan. After 25 seasons with the Italian giants, it’s no surprise that he enjoys massive respect in the city. Maldini’s longevity is the stuff of legend. He continued to perform at an elite level, even up to the age of 41 when he retired. The Italian star won 25 trophies throughout his career and was Milan’s longest-serving captain during his time with the team.
A classy central defender, Maldini won five Champion’s League titles and seven Serie A trophies with Milan. Other players came and went, but Maldini was a constant in the Rossenori’s backline. Furthermore, his professionalism and dedication to his body is the stuff of legend. Most players decline at about 32 but Maldini played for another 10 years past this age.
Chelios was a ludicrous 48 when he retired from the NHL. He played for an insane 26 seasons and enjoyed great success. A three-time Stanley Cup winner, Chelios played for the likes of the Canadiens, Red Wings, and the Thrashers. Furthermore, he wasn’t there just to make up the numbers. Chelios was a valuable team player, even as he grew older and less mobile on the ice.
Not many elite athletes continue to be effective as they grow older. However, Chelios was famous for his self-discipline and ensured he was in the right condition to keep going. This obviously becomes much more difficult with age, because the body takes longer to repair itself. But Chelios was as tough as they come and suffered very few nagging injuries throughout his career.
Ortiz doesn’t enjoy the profile of the likes of Deontay Wilder or Anthony Joshua. But most boxing fans identify him as one of the sport’s boogeymen. The Cuban is one of the best heavyweights in the world and remains an elite talent in his forties. ‘King Kong’ has fought the best of the best throughout his career. His only defeats came against Wilder and he was winning their second fight handily before the latter knocked him out.
An Olympic silver medalist, Ortiz endured many questions surrounding his age throughout his career. Many analysts believed that he was older than his birth certificate states, even though there is nothing to justify this. However, there is no doubt that Ortiz is one of the best older boxers in the world. It’s remarkable that he can fight so well at his age against much younger men.
One of the most iconic soccer players of his generation, Giggs was 41 when he finally retired from playing. The Welshman played for an incredible 23 years in Manchester United’s first team and enjoyed remarkable success. This elite winger won a ludicrous amount of trophies throughout a glittering career. He won 13 Premier League titles with the Red Devils and played a key role in their success.
While his playing time decreased as he grew older, Giggs remained a valuable member of the squad. He was also a major advocate for the benefits of yoga and helped to make it a mainstream activity for elite athletes. According to Giggs, his dedication to yoga helped to prolong his career because it repaired his body as he grew older. Giggs went on to manage his nation after retiring from playing.
One of the most intimidating MMA fighters on the planet, Romero is a beast. First of all, he was an Olympic silver medallist and enjoyed incredible PanAmerican success. Then he fought for the UFC until he departed at the age of 43. This wasn’t because he retired. No, after multiple title fights he decided the time was right for a fresh challenge with rival promotion Bellator.
Romero is famous for his incredible physique. The Cuban star is in better condition than athletes 20 years younger than him. His body is rock solid muscle and he punches like a train. Meanwhile, ‘The Soldier of God’ possesses obscene athleticism. His ability to explode is terrifying as the likes of Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman discovered to their cost. In sum, Romero is a freak of nature.
Widely regarded as the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, Rice spent most of his career with the San Francisco 49ers. He has scored more points than any other non-kicker in NFL history with 1,256. Rice also played for a long time. He only retired at the age of 44 in 2006.
With 303 games under his belt, Rice played more than any other non-kicker or punter in NFL history. Rice is also a member of several Hall of Fames. The Super Bowl winner also holds more NFL records than any other player. For example, Rice has the most career receptions in league history with 22,895.
The US golfer is one of the most successful players of all time. He’s one of 12 professionals to win three of the four majors. The only one he hasn’t succeeded in capturing is the US Open. But he did finish as runner-up a record six times there. Overall, Mickelson wasn’t just good, he was truly elite.
Mickelson was 43 when he won the British Open. Now 49, he’s still going strong. In 2019, he won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. This was his 44th win on the PGA circuit. It looks like he’s going to keep on going until he can’t swing a club anymore.
‘The Ryan Express’ played for a record 27 seasons. That’s the longest career in MLB history. Ryan played for the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers. This right-handed pitcher was famous for his fast throws that consistently went above 100 mph. He continued to achieve this in his 40s.
After turning 40, Ryan made the All-Star team for the eighth time and also became the MLB strikeout leader for the eighth time. In short, his place in the Hall of Fame was a certainty. Bizarrely, he only won a single World Series title back in 1969. He retired in 2003. Now, he’s an executive advisor for the Houston Astros.
Born in Copenhagen, there’s a lot about Andersen’s career that doesn’t make sense. First of all, the Dane only started playing football during an exchange year in high school. Little did he know, he’d end up playing more games than any other player in NFL history.
‘The Great Dane’ played 382 games from 1982-2007. At 47 years old, he became the oldest player to kick for 14 points in one game, as well as the oldest player to kick four field goals in one game. This man was relentless. Furthermore, he also scored in a record 360 consecutive games.
This former left fielder played in the MLB from 1979 to 2003. He won two World Series and was a 10-time MLB All-Star. Henderson achieved so much on the playing field. He has the record for stolen bases with a grand total of 1406. That’s fifty percent higher than the previous record.
Henderson’s elite longevity is also noteworthy. In 2003, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, he became the oldest player to play center field in major league history. He was 43 at the time. Insanely, by the time he arrived in Boston, he had stolen more bases than the Red Sox had in their history.
Italy international goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has set a ridiculous number of records throughout his career. He moved from Parma to Juventus for a then world-record $40 million. Even by today’s money standards, that’s a massive fee for a goalkeeper. But he’s proved that it was a brilliant investment.
Buffon has played over 1000 professional games. He has the most clean-sheets in the history of Serie A and the Italian national team. After 17 years with Juventus, where he won every domestic trophy available, he moved to PSG. He then won the Ligue 1 title at the age of 40.
Moon was a true warrior. He played professionally for 23 years, splitting his career between the NFL and CFL. This was a really long time for a sport where players have to take huge hits and risk brain damage from head trauma. As an offensive player, Moon was straight in the line of fire.
But he didn’t slow down and continued to impress throughout his elite journey. At the age of 41, he joined the Seattle Seahawks. During his time there, he was a two-time offensive player of the week. Then he went to the Pro Bowl for the ninth time of his career. Finally, Moon is the first African-American quarterback to enter the NFL Hall of Fame.
‘The Big Unit’ is a baseball Hall of Famer for good reason. He played 22 seasons in MLB, mostly for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Seattle Mariners. The giant pitcher had one of the most dominant fastballs in the game. He regularly approached or exceeded 100 mph in his prime.
Johnson’s elite prime lasted for a long time. In 2004, he became the oldest pitcher in history to throw a perfect game. The 10-time All-Star led the league with 290 strikeouts. He was 40 years old at the time. When Johnson finally retired in 2010, he was about 46.
Woods is the second most successful major PGA Tour championship winner in golf history. The youngest Grand Slam winner in the sport’s history, Woods holds a number of astounding elite records. He’s been the number one player in the world for the most consecutive weeks and for the greatest total number of weeks of any golfer in history.
Of course, Woods went through a period of personal issues involving sex addiction. He failed to win a major for 11 years. But in 2019, he won the Masters. At the age of 43, he became the second-oldest player to win the tournament after the great Jack Nicklaus. Despite all of his troubles, he still has the love of fans.
Clemens played for 24 seasons in MLB for four different teams. Astonishingly, he was an 11-time All-Star and won two World Series in his glittering elite career. He also won seven Cy Young Awards, more than any other pitcher in MLB history. He also made a guest appearance on “The Simpsons.” That’s when a celebrity knows that they have made it.
After turning 40, he continued to have an excellent career. Clemens became an All-Star three more times. He won the last of his Cy Young Awards at the age of 42. There weren’t many better than him at his best. He finally retired in 2007. Unfortunately, a number of scandals have since tainted his reputation.
Wells played for 12 teams across a 20-year career. One of the best left-handed pitchers to play in MLB, he is a two-time World Series champion. He’s also a three-time All-Star and pitched the 15th perfect game in MLB history. Allegedly, he was also hungover at the time. Although that may not be true, it’s a great story.
When he turned 40, Wells joined the Boston Red Sox. He took the number three in honor of Babe Ruth. The pitcher idolized Ruth so much that he actually has a tattoo of him. Four years later, he’d move to the Dodgers for his final season in 2007. He now works as a broadcaster for Fox Sports.
This eight-time All-Star has come a long way from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mutombo moved to the US to go to college at the age of 21. In 1991, he joined the Denver Nuggets. The Congolese star made an instant impact on their defense. Meanwhile, his finger-wag after each block became iconic.
Nobody could have expected him to continue playing until 2009. After turning 40 in 2006, he became the oldest player in NBA history to record more than 20 rebounds in a game with 22. Mutombo is also a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Finally, his humanitarian work also deserves much respect.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Green is one of the greatest cornerbacks ever to play in the NFL. He spent his entire 21-year career with the Washington Redskins. ‘The Ageless Wonder’ is a two-time Super Bowl champion and is still the oldest cornerback to ever play in the league.
Green was able to maintain an elite level well into the twilight of his career. He’s also the oldest player to record an interception at the age of 41. He’s also a Redskins legend, having made more appearances for the franchise than any other player. To sum up, he was a magnificent talent.
This Ukrainian gymnast’s career just doesn’t make sense. Firstly, gymnasts usually peak in their late teens. By the time they enter their 20s, they’re usually entering the twilight of their careers. Look at Simone Biles’s career. Chusovitina is 44 and is hoping to make it to her eighth Olympic Games.
Very few elite gymnasts are able to return to the sport after giving birth. However, Chusovitina did this as well, redefining what it means to be a gymnast in the process. The three-time World Champion is an Olympic Silver medalist. If she makes it to Tokyo it will be an incredible story.
Aaron was a brilliant baseball player. But more importantly, he was also a cultural icon. Aaron held the MLB career record for home runs for 33 years. He spent 22 years with the Atlanta Braves before moving to the Milwaukee Braves for a couple of seasons. It was a long and brilliant career.
At the age of 40, he recorded his 715th home run to edge out Babe Ruth as home run champion. At the time, the US was going through a time of significant racial upheaval. However, Aaron still got a standing ovation from the Georgia crowd. A beautiful sporting moment.
He’s not the most famous name on this list, but he’s definitely worthy of a place on it. Japanese climber and skier Miura is the oldest person to climb Mt. Everest. He broke his own remarkable record at the age of 80 in 2013. This made him the first octagenarian to reach the summit.
This wasn’t even his first encounter with Everest. His relationship with the world’s tallest mountain goes as far back as the 1970s when he famously skied down the peak. Miura first set the record for the oldest person to climb the mountain when he was 70. Some people just don’t stop. However, doctors have banned him from attempting it again.
This 12-time Olympic medallist had a stunning career. She was the first elite swimmer to qualify for five Olympics. Torres achieved this over a two-decade career. Her longevity is all the more remarkable when you factor in that she medaled in each of those tournaments.
Torres was the oldest swimmer in the history of the US national team when she competed in Beijing at the age of 41. This came a couple of years after the birth of her first child. She went on to win three silver medals, putting younger athletes to shame.
Another legend on this list, ‘The King’ raced from 1958 to 1992. He came from racing stock as his father Lee won the first-ever Daytona 500 in 1959. Petty is the only driver to win the NASCAR Championship Cup seven times, winning a record 200 races in his career.
Petty collected a record number of poles (127) and over 700 Top 10 finishes in his record 1,184 starts, including 513 consecutive starts from 1971–1989. He retired at the age of 55 but remains very active in motorsports. He now owns his own elite racing team. However, his grandson tragically died during a warm-up lap in 2000.
Howe is a legendary figure in the hockey world. Remarkably, in his final full year in the NHL, he helped the Hartford Whalers to the playoffs at the age 0f 51. Insanely, he was a 23-time All-Star and holds many hockey records. These include the most professional seasons and games played.
In 1997, he returned for a single game with the Detroit Vipers, which technically means he played in six different decades. Howe is one of the most complete players ever to play hockey. Furthermore, he even played alongside his sons with the Houston Aeros. Surely, that was one of the highlights of his career and something no other hockey player will likely accomplish.
The Czech star is the oldest female tennis player to win a major. She achieved this in 2006 when she remarkably won the mixed doubles at the US Open at the age of 49. Some consider her the best female tennis player of all-time, although Serena Williams might have something to say about that.
She won more singles and doubles titles in the Open era than any other elite player. Although most of her victories came in the 1970s and 80s, she played well into her 40s. Navratilova’s rivalry with Chris Evert is the stuff of legend in tennis. She is the only player in history to have held the top spot in both singles and doubles for over 200 weeks.
Couture takes this list to the next level. First of all, he’s the only UFC fighter to have won a title after entering the Hall of Fame. That’s only one of his many elite accolades. He’s a six-time champion across two weight classes. Some even believe that he’s the greatest heavyweight of all-time.
If he’s not the greatest, Couture was definitely the oldest. After a brief retirement, he decided to come back and fight again at the age of 43. Then he smashed Tim Sylvia and secured the crown again. To sum it up, Couture would continue fighting until he was 46.
Van Der Sar is the oldest soccer player to win the Premier League. Manchester United wanted the Dutch international for a long time, but he arrived late to Old Trafford. However, it’s often the case though that goalkeepers actually get better with age. Their maturity and decision-making improve so they peak later than outfield players.
That was definitely the case for Van Der Sar. The former Best European Goalkeeper was over 40 when he won the Premier League in 2011. In the 2008–09 season, he set the world league clean sheet record by not conceding a single goal for 1,311 minutes. To sum it up, he was an incredible, elite professional.
Bonds played into his 40s, but he wasn’t there to just make up the numbers. He won his seventh national league MVP award at the age of 40 after an astounding season with the San Francisco Giants. The MLB All-Star continued to perform at a high-level, playing for a further two years.
However, there is controversy surrounding his career because of his steroid use. Despite this, Bonds’ legacy is still intact. Bonds is the only player in MLB history with over 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. Finally, he also won eight Gold Glove awards for his elite defensive play in the outfield.
Favre was the first NFL quarterback to complete 6000 passes, pass for 500 touchdowns, throw for 70,000 yards, and attempt 10,000 passes. That should tell you something about his longevity. The 20-year veteran spent most of his elite career with the Green Bay Packers, but also played for the Jets and the Vikings.
One of the sport’s greatest quarterbacks, he’s the only player to win the NFL MVP award three consecutive times. During his time with the Packers, he made an NFL record 297 consecutive starts. Meanwhile, he was also the first quarterback to defeat each one of the league’s 32 franchises.
Some people will tell you to forget about Tiger Woods because Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all-time. It’s not difficult to understand that. Over the course of 25 years, he won a record 18 major championships. To sum up, that’s three more than his closest elite rival, Woods. He’s also in third place for overall PGA tour victories.
But it took him a long time to slow down. Nicklaus won his fourth US Open and fifth PGA championship at the age of 40. ‘The Golden Bear’ had even more to give. Six years later, at the age of 46, he won his sixth Masters. That makes him the oldest major winner in the history of professional golf.
Foreman is the oldest heavyweight boxing champion ever. The Olympic gold medalist turned professional in 1967. Who could have known that he’d be fighting until 1997? ‘Big George’ first won the heavyweight title in 1973 when he beat Joe Frazier. But he’d drop the belt to Muhammad Ali in ‘The Rumble in the Jungle.’
He retired for 10 years after becoming disillusioned with the sport. However, this elite talent couldn’t stay on the side. In 1995, Foreman knocked out 26-year-old Michael Moorer to win the unified WBA, IBF, and lineal titles. He was 45, the oldest heavyweight champion ever and the second oldest boxing champion behind Bernard Hopkins.
This man is a true freak of nature. Typically, as you get older, everybody’s bodies begin to slow down. For elite athletes like soccer players or runners, this can decimate your career. However, Lagat has defied the odds by continuing to race into his 40s. This just isn’t right.
Lagat is a five-time Olympian. His most recent appearance was in Rio De Janeiro. He’s a 13-time medalist in the World Championships and Olympics. Remarkably, he was 41 when he competed in Brazil. He also finished fifth out of 16 in the 5000m. To sum up, this was crazy for his age.
Known as ‘King Kazu’ in his native Japan, Miura has an even bigger following there than David Beckham ever did in Great Britain. He currently plays for Yokohama FC in Japan’s J-League. This may seem unexceptional but Miura is 52 years old and first became a professional soccer player in 1986. Furthermore, the J-League is regarded as a top-tier competition.
The former Japanese international played 89 times for his country, making his last appearance back in 2000. He has the record for the oldest goal scorer in professional soccer when he scored against Thespalusatsu Gunma two seasons ago. Remarkably, he looks set to continue into the future.
This man’s career just doesn’t make sense. Hopkins has a dark past that resulted in him spending time in jail. But he decided to change his life around. He became an elite boxer and the results were remarkable. In 2004 he became the undisputed world champion after beating Oscar De La Hoya.
Hopkins was the oldest boxer to hold a world title at the age of 46. He broke this record twice, winning the WBA (Super) title at the age of 49. This modern legend had a very cerebral style. He mastered the fundamentals and fought as a counterpuncher to preserve his longevity.
Brady is 42 and still going strong. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback is a true legend of the game. He has more Super Bowl wins than any other player with an incredible seven victories. Even more remarkable is the fact that the Patriots only drafted him in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft.
In short, that has proven to be the biggest steal in NFL history. Brady shone for the Patriots throughout an elite career. He has won five Super Bowl MVP awards, the most ever by a player, as well as three NFL MVP awards. Finally, at the age of 43, he also became the oldest player to win a Super Bowl. But he shows no signs of slowing down.