- 20 Oct 2006
- IOC News
Oscar Swahn (1847-1927): eyes and reactions still sharp
There is something special about Oscar Swahn that should be mentioned in all schools and sports clubs: he is the oldest person ever to have competed in the Olympic Games and won a gold medal.
His Olympic career
This atypical-looking Swede, born on 20 October 1847, began his Olympic career at the 1908 Games in London, at the age of 60. He promptly won two gold medals in the running deer-shooting, single-shot events: the first in the individual competition, the second in the team event. He concluded his Games by winning a bronze medal in the running deer-shooting, double-shot competition.
Swahn repeated the feat four years later at the Games in Stockholm, where he helped the Swedish team win the single-shot event. At the same time, he placed third in the double-shot individual competition.
The 1916 Olympic Games, scheduled to take place in Berlin, could not be held because of the 1st World War.
The athletes therefore gathered in Antwerp in 1920 for these long-awaited Games. Oscar Swahn once again made a name for himself by winning a silver medal in the team running deer-shooting, double-shot event. He was 72.
Only at this very respectable age did Oscar Swahn put an end to his Olympic career, having won a total of six medals: three gold, one silver and two bronze, at three consecutive editions of the Games.
The moving target, the same shape and size as a stag, is placed 100 metres from the shooter, and runs horizontally over 23 metres for a duration of around four seconds.
An example to follow
By competing as an older man, Oscar Swahn perfectly embodied the Olympic spirit advocated by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who called for participation in the Games with no form of discrimination.
The Swedish athlete showed – and still shows us today – that victory in sport is not necessarily a question of age.