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The speaker is facing an old man in a martial art tournament and thinks :

(1) 武道会に出場できるほどの老人なのにまるで聞いたこともない名だ。

Though this old mand is strong/good/in shape enough to participate in the tournament, I've never even heard his name.

I'm pretty sure I got the meaning (roughly) right but this way of using ほど stil confuses me a bit.

When used with の like this, does it feel to native speakers that the quality ほど refers to is omitted? Assuming I'm not mistaken, if a european person were to say this sentence in japanese, they would probably end up with something like :

(2)武道会に出場できるほどつよい/すぐれている老人なのに...

Or just :

(3)武道会に出場できる老人なのに...

Unlike (2), (3) doesn't give the feeling that it's impressive to participate in the tournament or that the old mans has whatever quality remarkable enough to participate, it just states that he is capable of it.

I was wondering for a time if ほど didn't refer to the quality of being old, but "old enough to participate" doesn't really make any sense here.

So yeah, are we supposed to fill in our minds the appropriate quality from the context or does ほど have a more precise meaning when used like this that I'm missing.

2

Yes, you can fill in the appropriate qualities from context, and it does mean that there is something remarkable about it. Still, that doesn't necessarily mean that anything feels omitted.

I think it feels similar to writing it as:

This is an old man who is at the level of being able to participate in the tournament, and yet I've never heard of him.

Or take this sentence, for instance:

外を歩けないほどの天気だった

Without further context, you can't tell whether it was rainy, windy, or really hot. But that's ok, because all that it's saying is that the weather was “at the level of” them not being able to walk outside, and that this level was exceptional in some way.

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