Finishing on a High

Sport is generally seen as a young person's game but some athletes have proven statistics wrong with recent success and raised the question: when is an athlete truly past their best and when is the best time to go out on a high?

Finishing on a High looks at six selected sports and their champions since the turn of the century to work out the perfect age to prosper as a sports star and whether age really is just a number...

Oldest Male Champion (Since 2000)
Oldest Female Champion (Since 2000)
Youngest Male Champion (Since 2000)
Youngest Female Champion (Since 2000)
Average Age Of Career Peak
Athletics (Olympic & World 100m)
(35) Justin Gatlin
(31) Carmelita Jeter
(21) Yohan Blake
(21) Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
25
Formula 1
(35) Michael Schumacher
(0) No Female Champions
(23) Sebastian Vettel
(0) No Female Champions
29
Cycling (Grand Tours)
(41) Chris Horner
(36) Annemiek van Vleuten
(22) Egan Bernal
(21) Nicole Cook
28
Boxing (Heavyweights)
(42) Vitali Klitschko
(44) Martha Salazar
(24) Wladimir Klitschko
(28) Alejandra Jimenez
31
Tennis
(36) Roger Federer
(35) Serena Williams
(19) Rafael Nadal
(17) Maria Sharapova
25
Golf
(43) Tiger Woods
(43) Sherri Steinhauer
(21) Jordan Spieth
(18) Lydia Ko
29
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Who could or should be the next world champions?

John Rahm, golf - Statistics show that male golfers begin to peak at the age of 25 and can enjoy success for around 10 years before slipping away at 35. Rahm turns 25 later this year and has impressed in recent majors without breaking his duck. Expect the big-hitting Spaniard to go on a run of success in the coming years.

Alexander Zverev, tennis - The successes of messrs Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have left the youngsters lagging behind in recent years, with no major winner under 30 since 2016. Zverev has been tipped as the man to break that run and is at a prime age to do so, with the majority of grand slams won between the ages of 23 and 29 in the last 20 years. At the current age of 22, Zverev is well placed to break into the top echelons of the game.

Tyson Fury, boxing - Fury has already been around a long time, but despite missing out on several years of his career already, he might just be about to hit the peak of his career. At 30, he is at the peak age of a heavyweight champion over the last 20 years and with several big fights on the horizon, he looks destined to return to the top of the boxing world.

Miguel Angel Lopez, cycling - Lopez is on the verge of a breakthrough and has already impressed on the grand tours. He has won the young rider classifications on three occasions and is just 25, so he statistically has four years to go until his peak but is at the right age to start challenging for major honours.

Max Verstappen, Formula 1 - Although he is some way off the peak age of maturity and skill in F1 terms, Verstappen is well placed for an era of dominance in the sport. At just 21, he already has multiple race wins under his belt and will only get better before he surely claims a first championship win.

Christian Coleman, athletics - The American sprinter will be about to hit his peak when Tokyo 2020 comes around. Justin Gatlin at 37 is the current world 100m champion but could be well past his best by then, leaving the silver medalist Coleman in second place. He has shown signs in recent times of becoming the natural successor to Usain Bolt.

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Oldest Male Champion (Since 2000)

Oldest Female Champion (Since 2000)

Youngest Male Champion (Since 2000)

Youngest Female Champion (Since 2000)

Average Age Of Career Peak

Title winners beyond average age of retirement since 2000

Tiger Woods, golf - An improbable comeback at the Masters was a true sporting fairytale considering everything that had happened in Woods' life. At the age of 43, he proved he can still mix it with the best and since the turn of the century only Phil Mickelson has won a major at the same age. Only five players have won titles in their 40s in the last 20 years so it may be unlikely that we see Tiger win a big one again.

Roger Federer, tennis - Having struggled with niggles, age and competition, Federer was a surprise winner at the age of 35 at the Australian Open in 2017 - five years after his last Grand Slam win. He has won two more since then as he continues to defy all logic and is arguably playing as well as ever despite being over 10 years past the average peak age of a winner since 2000.

Wladimir Klitschko, boxing - Now officially retired, the younger Klitschko brother enjoyed a period of sustained success in the heavyweight division up until defeats by Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. He and Vitali both had success in their late 30s and early 40s, possibly due to the lack of young competition coming through, showing that boxing is not necessarily a young person's game.

Chris Horner, cycling - He remains the oldest winner of a grand tour following his Vuelta win in 2013 at the age of 41. Cyclists tend to start winning around the age of 30, so to peak so late in his career makes Horner's achievement even more remarkable.

Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 - Hamilton broke onto the scene at such a young age, it seems remarkable to think that he is only in his mid-30s. The cars and teams that the drivers race for are increasingly more influential and Hamilton could continue to dominate the circuit for years to come despite being past his statistical best. Juan Manuel Fangio remains the oldest world champion ever at 46, so Hamilton is unlikely to beat that record, but he should become the oldest champion since 2000.

Justin Gatlin, athletics - He has had a chequered past and is not the most popular champion around, but the reigning 100m world champion is currently 37. For a sport that relies on explosiveness and athletes tending to peak at a young age, Gatlin's endurance is remarkable but he could bow out after Tokyo 2020.