Mary Hanna and Boogie Woogie ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Mary Hanna and Boogie Woogie ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Oldest Aussie Olympian is trotting towards Tokyo

MARY Hanna, 61, was the oldest Australian Olympian competing at Rio this year but the equestrian athlete admits she doesn't think about her age.

"I don't go 'I'm 61 I better not do that,' I just live my life," she said.

"In dressage circles a lot of people are older but we don't mention or even think about age really.

"I mix with people of all ages, men and women, we're all equal."

Born into a horse-loving family, Mrs Hanna was a member of the Nambour Pony Club as a young girl living at Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast.

She was encouraged by her parents to compete at three-day events, along with her sister.

"I would compete in all three events, cross country, show jumping and dressage but I didn't really get into dressage properly until I married my first husband who was Danish," she said.

"He brought me over to Europe and introduced me to true competitive dressage."

Mrs Hanna returns from Rio, 20 years after her debut, with an individual score of 69.643 (39th) with her horse Boogie Woogie.

Great Britain's Charlotte Dujardin won gold in the individual with a total score of 85.100 and the German team dominated overall, averaging a score of 81.936.

"I live in Germany half of the year and the other half in Australia," she said.

"My trainer is Swedish and he has really helped me, two of my team members live here too.

"To be the best you need to be surrounded by the best."

Mrs Hanna shies away from using the term rigorous for her fitness routine, although she does maintain a good diet and rides every day.

"When I'm in Australia I ride five times a day, right now only three times," she said.

"I also swim three times a week and play golf... practice yoga and Pilates to help with my core strength."

But it's not only her own fitness she needs to consider, Mrs Hanna is very wary of the strain travelling weighs on her horses, having lost a horse after Athens in 2004.

"Flying with horses is quite a process...they need to be loaded into cargo planes that are designed much like horse floats," she said.

"They are very prone to travel sickness and need to stay hydrated during the flight.

"About 20 years ago you could be with your horse during take-off and landing, as soon as the plane levelled, you could run down and be with them, but they don't allow that now, of course."

Mrs Hanna has had to change the way she rides over the years as the sport continues to become more competitive, inching ever closer to perfect scores.

"The horses have changed a lot, they're every energised horses and you have to keep up," she said.

"You've got to build core strength while maintaining suppleness...it's important to know how to use your body correctly and the core is most important because it means I will be more stable on the horse."

Mrs Hanna has already began preparations for Tokyo 2020, by which time she will be 65, planning to compete with Boogie Woogie and her younger mare Calanta.

"I know I have the correct horses for Tokyo, I don't think further ahead than that but if in four years' time I have the right horses again I'll decided on another Olympics," she said.

Mrs Hanna is by far not the oldest in the sport and won't be giving it up any time soon.

"I just do it, I get on and I don't think about my age."


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