The seemingly ageless and splendid Mary Hanna was hardly too impressed with her dressage performance at her record-equalling sixth Olympic Games, accepting her latest dream of winning a medal in the dressage has probably passed her by.
Yet the irrepressible 66-year-old Melbourne grandmother, the oldest competitor in the entire Games, was not about to be left moaning about a bad day at the office as she reckoned that she’ll be doing her utmost to be back at the next Olympics – as a 70-year-old!
“I don’t know what else to do with myself,” smiled Hanna, after being asked about the secret of her longevity following her disappointing qualification ride on Calanta which realistically left her out of the running for the individual prize as a lowly 20th best on the opening day.
“I’ve been doing this for so long now. Riding’s one of those amazing sports where you can do it no matter what your age is, or your gender. It’s a fantastic sport like that.
“So as long as I feel fit enough to ride a horse, I’ll keep going. Because it’s what I love to do, it’s my life. It’s everything to me.”
Asked about the possibility of winning that elusive medal after her five previous attempts over 25 years, beginning at Atlanta in 1996, Hanna conceded: “Well, the way I went today, I won’t be getting that!”
But she was adamant that the Olympic dream hadn’t died for her.
“You always dream that your next horse, your next competition, that you’re going to make it better. You just keep striving to do the absolute best you can,” she said.
“The Olympics is a lot about participation, too, so just being here is great.
“I think it’s getting a little bit late to aim for a gold medal – but I’m not giving up.”
Hanna, who’s been called an “inspiration” by Australia’s Olympic chiefs, has been riding since she was a four-year old in Victoria.
She spent much of her career in Europe before returning home in 2019 to look after daughter Gitte, an Australian dressage international herself who suffered an accident.
But Hanna has some ageing heroes of her own.
“Well there was a wonderful gentleman from Japan actually, who rode very well in Grand Prix, and rode well into his 70s,” she said, referring to Hiroshi Hoketsu, who competed at the London 2012 Games when he was 71.
“So he’s kind of a new inspiration. I look around in the horse world, and there was a wonderful rider at home Judy Mackay, who I always really admired. And she rode to an old age, and always looked perfect in the saddle, and rode beautifully.”
So, could we expect to see Mary coming back for a record seventh Games in Paris, still looking the part in 2024?
“Yes, absolutely. It’s only four years away,” she said, matter-of-fact.
“Unless my body really breaks down, I’m certainly aiming for Paris!”