Giggs to Hopkins: Five “freaks” who defied the ageing process

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Manchester United manager David Moyes has labelled Ryan Giggs a “freak” after the Welshaman put in a performance that belied his 40 years to see the Red Devils into the next stage of the Champions League,

The Old Trafford outfit are rank outsiders to lift the trophy at 18/1, but Giggs’ commanding midfield performance has given United fans hope that Moyes’ first season in charge could yet end with the trophy of all trophies.

Here we look at five other sportmen who, like Giggs, continued to excel despite their advancing years.

Ferenc Puskás – European Cup Winner – 39 years, 39 days

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While Giggs continues to defy the ageing process in the heart of United’s midfield he will have to see the Red Devils all the way to lifting the trophy to usurp Puskas as the oldest man to win a European Cup final.

The legendary Hungarian – scorer of 84 goals in 85 international games – was regarded as one of the best players in the world during his pomp and found the back of the net with unerring regularity in the Hungarian and Spanish leagues.

A career than eventually saw 514 goals recorded in 529 appearances showed no sign of slowing down in 1966 when Puskas scored four goals against Feyenoord en-route to helping Real Madrid to European Cup glory over Partizan Belgrade in the final.

Nigel Mansell – 1992 F1 Champion – 39 years, 8 days

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If Williams and Renault was the perfect marriage in 1990s F1 then Britain’s Nigel Mansell was the vicar.

While Mansell is 200 odds days short of Graham Hill’s British record – and some seven years of Juan Manuel Fangio’s overall record – his 1992 title triumph stands out as one of the best.

His only title-winning year came at a time when F1 drivers were getting younger and younger – Michael Schumacher was on the scene by this point – and was delivered in ruthless style.

Mansell took 14 of the 16 available poles that year and turned those in to nine wins and three second-place finishes.

He retired in the other four Grand Prix but still managed to amass 108 points, 52 more than runner-up Ricardo Patrese!

Andre Agassi – 2003 Australian Open winner – 32 years, 8 months, 28 days

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While Aussie legend Ken Rosewall holds the overall record at 37 years, two months and a day, Agassi is one of a select few players to achieve Grand Slam success over the age of 30 in the modern era.

The Las Vegas-born star turned pro in 1986 and landed his first Major title six years later at Wimbledon.

That his final Major came in 2003, some 17 years into his career and 11 after his first triumph, goes some way to highlighting the dedication the man had for his sport.

Bernard Hopkins – IBF Light Heavyweight Champion – 48-years-old

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While Giggs earns plaudits for running around and kicking a ball in his 40s, B-Hop would laugh at his accomplishment  and challenge him to get hit in the face for a living almost a decade down the line.

The American boxing star is still going strong and breaking his own records every time he steps into the ring.

Winner of 54 of his 64 professional bouts, Hopkins added the IBF Light Heavyweight title to his CV with victory over Tavoris Cloud on March 9th 2013 at the age of 48!.

The Executioner followed this up with a successful defence against Germany’s Karo Murat last October and looks to add the WBA strap to his name against Kazakhstan’s Beibut Shumenov in Washington DC next month.

Brad Thorn – 2011 Rugby World Cup winner – 36 years, 262 days

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Something of a rugby journeyman, Thorn flitted between both codes during his career and took in stints at the Brisbane Broncos, Canterbury, Leinster and Crusaders to name a few.

However, arguably the highlight of his long career came in 2011 when he helped the All Blacks to a Rugby Union World Cup title in his home country.

Thorn was 36 years and 262 days when the Kiwis edged out France 8-7 at Eden Park and he remains the oldest player in history to hold the Webb Ellis Cup above his head.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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James Curtis

After studying for a degree in journalism and gaining his NCTJ, James contributed to a wide range of papers, online publications and broadcasters including the South London Press, Press Association and Sky Sports News before joining the Ladbrokes News team.