This year’s Super Bowl expected a changing of the guard, but for one Tom Brady dismissed the rumour mill and schooled his younger opponents, the LA Rams, to conclude one of the most unpredictable NFL seasons in recent times.
Widely called the GOAT (greatest-of-all-time), at least by residents of Boston, the New England Patriots quarterback will turn 42 in August, and his expected decline has spectacularly failed to materialise.
His 18 seasons as a starter in the NFL have yielded six Super Bowls – three of them in the last five years.
Brady was pressed on retirement before and after the Super Bowl, and has said: “I want to play until I’m 45,” to groans from defences around the league. “It’ll be hard, but I think I can do it.”
Feeling inspired? Brady isn’t alone when it comes to athletes not letting age affect their performance…
1. Serena Williams, 37
Sisters Venus and Serena Williams have always been pretty good at tennis, but Serena, 37, has charged through her 30s getting better, and better, and better.
Armed with probably the greatest serve in the women’s game, she’s battled Twitter trolls, become a mum and won 10 grand slams since turning 30. She has credited her longevity in part to playing fewer tournaments.
2. Jo Pavey, 45
Reflecting on a career that has defied expectations at every turn, long-distance runner Jo Pavey has said: “I’m known for being old.”
At 39 and pregnant with her second child, you could’ve been forgiven for thinking her race was run. But Pavey stormed back to secure her first-ever major title at the European Championships, little more than a month before turning 41.
Now 45, Pavey has a sixth Olympic Games firmly in her sights, and no plans to hang up the spikes anytime soon.
3. Nick Skelton, 61
Although now retired, when equestrian Nick Skelton started riding competitively, war was raging in Vietnam, Margaret Thatcher was attempting to become leader of the opposition, and John Pertwee was playing Doctor Who.
Fast forward to 2016 and Skelton wowed everyone with a spectacular showjumping gold at the Rio Olympics – then aged 58. It made him Britain’s oldest Olympic gold medallist for more than a century.
A true underdog story, Skelton suffered a neck break in 2000 that should have ended his career.
4. James Anderson, 36
Most of us would love to be as spry as cricketer Jimmy Anderson, but most of us aren’t banging down 80mph plus bouncers for 30 overs in a day. Fast bowlers face some of the greatest physical challenges of any cricketer, and Anderson is considered the most successful pace bowler in Test history.
“There’s always a question mark over bowlers aged over 35,” Anderson said in September. “I’m enjoying playing – as long as that continues, I’ll carry on playing as long as I can.”
5. Ronnie O’Sullivan, 43
At 43 and forever boasting a devil-may-care attitude, Ronnie O’Sullivan seems to be ageing like fine wine. He’s stated a desire to play into his 50s, but given he threatens retirement after almost every tournament, we may have to get back to you on that.
Longevity in snooker is not unusual – master cueman Steve Davis was playing at the World Snooker Championships in his late 50s.