Not too long ago, professional athletes rarely produced world-class results after they passed their mid-thirties and ventured into their forties. Today, however, athletes like Roger Federer and Serena Williams (both 38 years old), Tom Brady (42) and Tiger Woods (43) are proving that age is just a number, each continuing to find success in their sports.
American Bernard Lagat and Chris Brown of the Bahamas are also looking to prove they’ve still got what it takes to compete with the world’s best, with both men recently announcing they will attempt to qualify for their sixth Olympic team each.
Brown, a 400m runner, is 41 years old. He has competed at each Summer Games since Sydney in 2000, where he picked up a bronze medal in the 4 x 400m relay with the Bahamian team. The Athens Games were the only ones from which Brown has returned home without a medal. He and his teammates added three more in the 4 x 400m after Sydney, winning gold in London, silver in Beijing and another bronze in Rio.
He currently coaches the Clayton State University track team in Georgia. His bio on the Clayton State track page reads that he joined the team “following a tremendous international career,” but Brown announced that he isn’t quite finished on the world stage.
Brown told the Bahamian paper the Nassau Guardian that although he took a year off of competing since joining the Clayton State staff, he hasn’t stopped training.
“[My] body is still active and ready to compete at any minute now,” he said. “I just try and maintain and keep my body consistent with what it has been doing.”
Brown isn’t just looking for a fun, lighthearted Olympic finale–he wants to help the Bahamian team to continue their success in the 4 x 400m. If Brown makes the team, he could be running with Steven Gardiner, a fellow Bahamian who won the 400m world championship a month ago in Doha, who would be a huge addition to the already stellar cast of previous 400m runners from the Bahamas.
Like Brown, the 44-year-old Lagat has competed on the track of each Summer Olympics since 2000. Lagat won a medal in his first two Olympic appearances, taking a bronze in 2000 and silver in 2004, both in the 1,500m. At that time, he was competing for Kenya, where he was born and raised. In 2005, however, Lagat became an American citizen, and he has represented the U.S. ever since.
From the 2008 to the 2016 Olympics, Lagat competed in the 5,000m. His focus is now on the marathon, a distance which he has only raced twice. His first shot at 42K was at the New York City Marathon in 2018, where he ran a 2:17:20. In July 2019, he travelled to Australia and set an American masters record of 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon.
Lagat will be at the US Olympic Trials in Atlanta on February 29 to book his ticket for the 2020 Olympic marathon. If he makes the team, he’ll be 45 years old at the start line in Sapporo.
Just a number
Brown and Lagat may be competing on complete opposite ends of the athletics spectrum–Brown in one of the shortest Olympic running events and Lagat in the longest–but both have the same goal of making a sixth Olympic team. Brown was two weeks shy of his 22nd birthday when he made his Olympic debut, and Lagat was 26 when he stepped on the Olympic track for the first time.
Both men have been able to call themselves Olympians for the last 19 years, and they’d each like to keep that title just a little bit longer.