Serena, Sachin And The Other Stars Who Continue To Shine After Four Decades

In everything from boxing to gymnastics, there are heroes of the 1990s still performing
16:41, 06 Jan 2020

Vince Carter continued to legitimise his “Half-Man, Half-Amazing” tagline over the weekend as he strode onto the basketball court and into the 2020s, becoming become the first NBA player to have produced a career spanning into four decades.

The 42-year-old has played for eight different franchises in his 22-year professional career, beginning with the Toronto Raptors and ending up at his current team the Atlanta Hawks, with whom he made NBA history this Sunday against the Indiana Pacers.

To highlight the significance of this moment, the youngest active player in the NBA is Detroit Pistons forward Sekou Doumbouya, who is currently 19 years old having been born on December 23, 2000. Carter's NBA debut came on February 5, 1999, in the era of Allen Iverson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Baby One More Time was topping the charts and Joe DiMaggio was still alive.

Whilst Carter’s peers have fallen into retirement, Carter courageously continues. In celebration, here are some other iconic sports stars the American can pride himself as standing alongside thanks to their similar longevity in their field.

Gianluigi Buffon

There are few words adequate enough to describe Gianluigi Buffon. The man mountain - certifiably, undeniably one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Still between the sticks for Juventus - who he memorably followed down to Serie B in the mid-2000s - Buffon made his Serie A debut on Nov 19, 1995. To put this in perspective, Pierce Brosnan’s first foray as James Bond, Goldeneye, was five days away from being released in British cinemas. One of the players vying to take his mantle as Italy’s foremost goalkeeping export, AC Milan’s Gigio Donnarumma was still fou years from being born when Buffon premiered for Parma.

A World Cup winner with the Azzurri in 2006, the now 41-year-old Italian stallion has more records than a disc jockey; the longest streak without conceding a goal in Serie A history (974 consecutive minutes across 12 league matches), the most consecutive clean sheets in the Italian top tier (10), the most capped player in the history of the Italy national team, the fourth-most capped footballer of all time, and the most capped European international player ever. He is also set to break Paolo Maldini’s all-time appearance record this year. Furthermore, for 17 years Buffon held the record for the highest transfer fee for a goalkeeper following his €51m move from Parma to Juventus in 2001.

He also left Juve for Paris Saint-Germain, won the Ligue 1 title, and came straight back.

Sachin Tendulkar 

The Little Master can still enjoy his status as one of the greatest cricketers of all time. Despite his 5ft 5inch stature, India legend Tendulkar is a giant of a man who had a humongous career.

The Bombay-born batsman holds an endless conveyor belt of records. The only player to have scored one hundred international centuries? Check. The holder of the record for the most runs in both Test and One-Day Internationals? Double Check. The only player to rack up more than 30,000 runs in international cricket? Check x 30k.

He made his Test debut on 15 November 1989 against Pakistan, aged 16, and became part of the furniture for the next quarter of a decade. In 2011, upon attempting to collect one of the missing pieces from his collection that had so far eluded him - the World Cup - compatriot Virat Kohi summed it up best, declaring that “Sachin Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It was time we carried him.” They did that, as India duly won the tournament, Tendulkar’s sixth and last appearance on that particular stage.

Serena Williams

A true tennis champ who hasn’t let little things like pregnancy get in the way of certifying herself as one of the greatest players of all time. One behind Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam record (come on Serena, you’re so bloody close), the American’s first came in 1999 at the tender age of 17.

Williams became a pro at just 14 years old and in 1998 won her first match at a Grand Slam competition, beating Irina Spirlea of Romania at the Australian Open. The ‘99 US Open, however, was to be the first of her 23 triumphs as she defeated Martina Hingis at Flushing Meadows. Ten more followed in the first post-millenium decade, and a stonking 12 were added in the 2010s. The 38-year-old is hoping to make it #24 later this month in Melbourne, the site of her first slam match victory 22 years ago. 

Manny Pacquiao

While there are a handful of very notable boxers to have fought in five decades - Roberto Duran, Jack Johnson - Filippino firecracker Manny Pacquiao is the only pugilist to hold titles in four decades.

1998 marked the arrival of Pacquiao's first belt with an eighth-round knockout win against Chatchai Sasakul, which saw him procure the lineal and WBC flyweight titles.

Twenty-one years later, Pacquiao became the oldest welterweight champion in history at the age of 40 and also the first boxer to become a four-time welterweight champion by beating Keith Thurman, a fighter 10 years Pac-Man’s junior, in July 2019. Furthermore, the win helped to cement his status as one of the greatest boxers of all time, if not the very greatest. Pacquiao is also the only octuple champion in history having won titles in eight different weight classes. This he achieved in 2010 with a win over Antonio Margarito for the WBC super welterweight title.

Oksana Chusovitina

Oksana Chusovitina is 44 years old. Oksana Chusovitina has qualified to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Oksana Chosovitina’s discipline is gymnastics.

Mind-bogglingly, Chusovitina’s first Olympics came all the way back as the Cold War was thawing, in 1992.

Take that into consideration for a moment.

Uzbekistan-born Chusovitina made her debut for the unified team of the Soviet Union in Barcelona, and went on to feature at the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

In 2019 at the World Championships in Doha, Chusovitina was competing against the likes of Shallon Olsen and Simone Biles, who, it goes without saying, is young enough to be her university-graduated daughter. Furthermore, Chusovitina was showing her young rivals up by daring to attempt the death-defying ‘Produnova’ vault. Which she did.

Chusovitina has also performed routines on the floor to The Godfather and the Pirates of the Caribbean themes, and is a mother to a son born in 1999 - a year before Sydney.

Ladies and gentlemen, your new hero.

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