The Toughest Athletes: Grizzled Vets

Because we salute the old men who stick around just long enough to humiliate guys half their age.
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Because we salute the old men who stick around just long enough to humiliate guys half their age.
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Peyton Manning

Quarterback, Denver Broncos

The guy’s a prince. Born to football royalty, he was destined to become a high school player of the year, a three-time Heisman Trophy contender, and the No. 1 pick in the draft. Who’d blame him if he wanted to keep his jersey clean? But his work ethic is legendary. And you can’t knock his courage. It’s one thing to have your spine fused. It’s another to risk paralysis by continuing to play. Peyton did both. And then led the Broncos to the Super Bowl—while earning a fifth MVP award.

Bernard Hopkins

Boxer

At nearly 50 years old, the reigning IBF light heavyweight champ is the oldest boxer to hold a major title belt, and one of the craftiest pugilists of all time. Hopkins, who turned pro in 1988, leaving a violent Philly upbringing and five years in the state pen behind, even adopted the nickname “the Alien” as a nod to his otherworldly staying power. Next month he’ll be put to the test against Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev. Tune in to see if B-Hop can keep beating up on Father Time.

Serena Williams

Tennis Player

She’s battled illness, but there’s no denying her might. With that wicked serve, the big forehand, the evil stares, she routinely leaves mere mortals (and line umps) cowering in their tracks. With good reason, too. When she’s healthy and rested, Serena is damn near impossible to beat, which explains why she’s the only female athlete in history to win more than $56 million in prize money.

Tim Lincecum

Pitcher, San Francisco Giants

The 5′11″ string bean looks more like a kid who delivers the paper than a two-time Cy Young Award winner, but that’s old news. The 30-year-old Lincecum no longer throws the 98 mph fastball that once bedeviled hitters. In fact, he almost looked mortal in 2013—especially after he cut his long brown hair (and grew a very questionable mustache). But then he delivered two no-hitters in 12 months and silenced the naysayers once again.

Up Next, The Naturally Gifted.

Photos by Justin Edmonds / Getty Images