Everyone knows that sports are a young person’s game, especially when it comes to the professional level of competition. But in 2017, we all found ourselves in awe of some veteran athletes who defied their ages to score some of the most impressive victories of the year.
These men and women may not be truly old, but they’re certainly past the age where we expect our sports heroes to be winning championships.
If there’s one sport where age might seem like an insurmountable obstacle, it might be tennis. Singles players must exert themselves for hours at a time with no teammates to rely on, requiring not only immense skill but also all the stamina they can muster.
Nonetheless, a look at the 2017 season might make you think you were looking at the 2007 results instead.
Heading into the year, Roger Federer hadn’t won a Grand Slam tournament in five years, and at age 35, it looked like he never would again. But in January, the Swiss legend won the Australian Open, and followed that up with a win at Wimbledon in July. That gave him 19 Grand Slam titles for his career.
Bookmakers even favored Federer heading into the US Open, where he was a 5-2 favorite. But it was second choice Rafael Nadal who would instead win in New York, giving him his second major title of the year, and 16 Grand Slams for his career. At 31, Nadal is no spring chicken himself, and the dominance he and Fed showed this season in the face of young challengers was a special treat for tennis fans.
But it wasn’t just the men who looked to the past for inspiration this year. Serena Williams won the Australian Open women’s title at the age of 35, a feat made all the more impressive considering she was two months pregnant during the tournament.
Hype of the Century
The most hyped sporting event of the year was undoubtedly the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC superstar Conor McGregor. The fight was something of an odd matchup: Mayweather, 40, was an undefeated 49-0 boxing legend who was a bit past his prime. On the other hand, while McGregor, 29, was a UFC Champion, he did not have a single professional boxing match to his credit.
Most of the public betting was on McGregor, who started as an enormous underdog but was pushed down to around +500 at most sportsbooks before the fight. More money came in on Mayweather, however, as the sharps astutely predicted that the all-time great pugilist might be able to take care of a man who was a great athlete, but essentially an amateur boxer.
Sure enough, after a competitive first few rounds, Mayweather took control of the fight, ultimately winning by technical knockout in the 10th round. The fight was a big win for Vegas bookmakers, who took in about $65 million in bets on the event. As for the fighters themselves, with Mayweather reportedly earning more than $300 million from the bout.
Brady’s Comeback for the Ages
Tom Brady never seems to age, and he remains one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks to this day. The New England Patriots quarterback brought his team into Super Bowl LI as a three-point favorite against the Atlanta Falcons. But the Patriots found themselves losing 28-3 midway through the third quarter, and even the most ardent New England fans had begun to despair.
But New England scrambled back from the brink of defeat, tying the game up with less than a minute left in regulation before a James White touchdown run in overtime gave the Patriots their fifth Super Bowl title in Brady’s tenure.
The team’s winning ways may not be over, either, as New England opened the season as 11-4 favorites to repeat as champions even as their star quarterback turned 40 years old.