By Tom Degun

Hiroshi Hoketsu_07-03-1March 13 - Japanese equestrian rider Hiroshi Hoketsu has sensationally qualified for the London 2012 Olympics at the age 70-years-old, making him the oldest man eligible to compete Games.

Hoketsu qualified by winning a recent international dressage meet in France but it has not yet been confirmed if he will compete at the equestrian event in Greenwich Park this summer after Japanese equestrian officials said they are yet to confirm if they will select him for the Games.

However, it remains an astonishing achievement for Hoketsu, who turns 71 on March 28.

Hoketsu made his Olympic debut at Tokyo in 1964, finishing 40th in the show jumping, and then did not qualify again until Seoul 24 years later.

But he was unable to compete because his horse was quarantined.

There was another 20-year gap before he made Japan's team for Beijing, where, at 67, he was Japan's oldest-ever Olympian.

"To put it pompously, it was a miracle," said Hoketsu.

"Last summer, I thought it would be impossible to make London, so it fills me with deep emotions."

Hiroshi Hoketsu_with_horse
Before Hoketsu competed at Beijing 2008, Japan's oldest ever Olympian was another equestrian rider Kikuko Inoue, who took part in the dressage at the Seoul 1988 Games at the age of 63, where he was a teammate of Hoketsu.

However, even if Hoketsu makes it to London 2012, he will just miss out on becoming the oldest ever Olympian; a record that belongs to Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who won a silver medal at the Antwerp 1920 Olympics at the age of 72 to claim his sixth medal in three Games.

Hoketsu rode his 15-year-old mare Whisper at Beijing 2008 where he finished ninth in team dressage and 35th in individual dressage.

Whisper, his mount since 2006, suffered a muscle injury after the World Equestrian Championships in September 2010 and needed nearly 10 months to recover.

Hoketsu, a former corporate executive, has lived in Germany since retiring in 2003 from his profession.

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