The Olympics are often a showcase for youth — but they can also show the benefits of being in shape later in life. That's the case with Tomi Rantamaeki, a Finnish curler who is making his Winter Olympics debut in Pyeongchang, months before he turns 50.
Rantamaeki is a curler who's currently in the mixed doubles tournament along with his teammate, Oona Kauste. Despite their experience — Rantamaeki is a former national coach for the Finnish Curling Association, and Kauste is the skipper on the Finnish women's team — the pair have been struggling in the new mixed-doubles format; they now sit in last place.
Rantamaeki's Olympic moment comes 32 years after he took up curling while he was in high school.
After a recent match, Rantamaeki was asked about his age and his status as the oldest rookie in Pyeongchang. Here are some of his remarks, as transcribed by the Olympic Information Service:
"People are eating wrong. If you take care of yourself, both mentally and physically, you stay young. Age is only a number.
"I hope I'm a good example for people to live well and stay young, but everybody has to find their own way to do it. I can't say 'Do this, do that.'
"I remember when I was younger, the body was a little bit easier to live with. But I've not had any big problems. I've had some injuries and I know that injuries now take quite a long time to heal.
"Maybe a 20-year-old will recover in three months, but for me it might take half a year or even a year, because the cells are not reproducing at the same rate. In that sense, I just need to be more careful than the 20-year-olds who can do anything.
"Just to live life in a clever way, not to waste too much energy doing wrong things, not to take too big physical risks, like go downhill skiing or something like that."
Out on the curling sheet, things have not gone well for Finland. Rantamaeki discussed the frustration of losing a streak of five games to begin this eight-team tournament.
"My philosophy is to choose the happy life," he said. "This may be the only time I experience the Olympic Games. Why would I make that a sad thing?"
Rantamaeki and Kauste have just two more chances to get a win in Pyeongchang. They'll play China Saturday night (at 6 a.m. ET) before finishing the tournament with a game on Sunday against the U.S. team of Becca and Matt Hamilton — who haven't won since beating the Russian team on the first day of play.
Rantamaeki works as a business consultant. In interviews, he's said that he would be happy to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics of 2022, if he qualifies. And he's joked about attacking the Olympic resume of his Finnish teammate Janne Ahonen, the ski jumper who at 40 years old is now in his seventh Olympic Games.
Breaking that mark, Rantamaeki admits, might not be easy. He'll turn 50 in September and would be in his late 70s if he were to match Ahonen's streak.