Games equestrian age record looms?


Japan effectively won the right Thursday to participate in the dressage equestrian competition at the 2008 Olympics, and one of the riders will be Hiroshi Hoketsu, who is set to become the oldest-ever Japanese participant in the Games.

This will be the second time for Hoketsu, 66, to participate in the Olympics. He represented Japan at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, according to the Japan Equestrian Federation.

Hoketsu will turn 67 on March 28. The Olympic event will take place in Hong Kong in August, the JEF said. The oldest Japanese Olympian to date is Kikuko Inoue, who participated as an equestrian in the 1988 Seoul Olympics at age 63.

Dressage, often described as “horse ballet,” is all about horse-riding skills.

It requires less strength than show-jumping, another equestrian category, and a rider can usually have a much longer top-flight career, a JEF public relations official said.

Japan competed with Australia and New Zealand for the right to participate in dressage. Only two countries can go to the Olympics from the area covering the Asia-Oceanian and Africa-Middle East regions.

At the final preliminary competition that ended Thursday in New Zealand, Japan ranked second after Australia, the JEF said. The International Equestrian Federation is expected to finalize the decision Tuesday.

“We are really relieved. . . . We are now determined to further strengthen the Japanese team,” said Shuji Nagashima, who heads the JEF dressage department, in a written statement Thursday.