Tokyo 2020 has given us three of the youngest Olympic medalist ever – Sky Brown, Momiji Nishiya, Kokona Hiraki – and here, we have compiled a list of 10 pre-teens and teenagers that stole the highlight on sport’s greatest stage.
Once every four years, the entire world is treated to the fare of talent and all kinds of sporting brilliance in form of the Olympic games. Athletes, old and young alike, from every nook and cranny of the world, converge to compete for prestige and medals by displaying their genius in their chosen sports.
After the unpleasant events that led to the postponement of the festival in 2020, the Tokyo Olympics has since commenced been worth the wait. Records have been broken, and new ones set. New sporting events have been introduced too, like skateboarding.
A most intriguing part of this year’s games is its production of young medalists. The Tokyo Olympics features a long list of young athletes, 11 of whom are teenagers. Two teenagers have won gold already, with 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby winning the 100-metre breaststroke and 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya, also winning gold in the inaugural women’s street skateboarding event. Other teenagers like Rayassa Leal, Kokona Hiraki, and Sky Brown have all won medals too.
In the next few paragraphs, we will take a look at ten of the youngest Olympic medalists of all time.
10 youngest Olympic medalists of all time
1. Dimitros Loundras
Age: 10 years, 216 days. | Nationality: Greek. | Olympic Edition: Athens 1896. | Medal & Sport: Bronze in Gymnastics
Dimitros was just 10 years old when he competed as part of Greece’s bronze medal team in gymnastics at the first-ever Olympics in Athens, 1896. The controversy about Dimitros’ claim to this status stems from the rumours that the Dutch rowing team had a boy aged between 7 and 10 on their team, but their identity remains unknown.
2. Luigina Giavotti
Age: 11 years, 301 days. | Nationality: Italian. | Olympic Edition: Amsterdam 1928. | Medal & Sport: Silver in Gymnastics
Luigina Giavotti became the youngest ever female Olympic medalist when she won silver as part of Italy’s gymnastics team in 1928 which, as you’ll see, was a squad full of youngsters. This was 32 odd years after Dimitros’ record.
3. Inge Sorensen
Age: 12 years, 21 days. | Nationality: Danish. | Olympic Edition: Berlin 1936. | Medal & Sport: Bronze in Swimming
While Dimitros and Giavotti are the youngest Olympic medalists, it is important to note that they won as part of a team. Sorensen actually has the record for youngest individual medalist having placed third in the 200-metre breaststroke in 1936. She also set many records in her home country of Denmark, alongside two other world records.
4. Ines Vercesi
Age: 12 years, 216 days. | Nationality: Italian. | Olympic Edition: Amsterdam 1928. | Medal & Sport: Silver in Swimming
Ines was also a member of the team to which Luigina belonged during the 1928 games. Ines was the second-youngest member of the Italian team and clinched the silver medal in swimming.
5. Noel Vandernotte
Age: 12 years, 230 days. | Nationality: French. | Olympic Edition: Berlin 1936. | Medal & Sport: Bronze x2 in Rowing
Vandernotte is the youngest Olympic medalist in French history, and also the youngest person to ever win two medals at the same Olympics. He won bronze in the coxed pairs and coxed fours rowing events at the 1936 games. Vandernotte died at the ripe age of 96 in June 2020.
6. Kokona Hiraki
Age: 12 years, 243 days. | Nationality: Japanese. | Olympic Edition: Tokyo 2020. | Medal & Sport: Silver in Park Skateboarding
Kokona Hiraki became the youngest Olympic medalist since Noel Vandernotte’s double win at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She won the silver medal in the park skateboarding event behind her teammate, Sakura Yosozumi, becoming the 5th Japanese to clinch a skateboarding medal at the 2020 Olympics.
7. Carla Marangoni
Age: 12 years, 269 days. | Nationality: Italian. | Olympic Edition: Amsterdam 1928. | Medal & Sport: Silver in Gymnastics
By now you must be wondering, just how young were these Italian gymnasts in the 1928 games. They weren’t only young, they were good too. Carla adds to the list of medalists in the Italian gymnastics team from Amsterdam, 1928.
8. Dorothy Poynton-Hill
Age: 13 years, 23 days. | Nationality: American. | Olympic Edition: Amsterdam 1928. | Medal & Sport: Silver in Diving
Dorothy had only celebrated officially becoming a teenager three weeks before winning silver in the 3m springboard event at the 1928 games in Amsterdam. She returned four years later to Los Angeles to win gold in the 10m platform event and defended that title at the 1936 games where she also won bronze in the 3m springboard event.
9. Sky Brown
Age: 13 years, 27 days. | Nationality: British. | Olympic Edition: Tokyo 2020. | Medal & Sport: Bronze in Park Skateboarding
Great Britain’s Sky Brown, claimed the bronze medal in Tokyo 2020 park skating competition with her last run of the day, finishing behind Japan’s Kokona Hiraki. This makes her the 9th youngest Olympic medalist in history.
10. Rayssa Leal
Age: 13 years, 204 days. | Nationality: Brazilian. | Olympic Edition: Tokyo 2020. | Medal & Sport: Silver in Street Skateboarding
Some years ago, Leal went viral in a video of her skating dressed like a fairy. In the street skateboarding event of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, she clinched the silver title, and this is expected to be just the beginning of her wins.
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There are a handful of other teenage Olympic medalists, like America’s Majorie Gestring who won gold in Diving at the 1936 Olympics. She was aged 13 years and 268 days. Not forgetting Germany’s Klaus Zerta who won gold in Rowing at the 1960 edition in Rome, aged 13 years and 280 days. And of course, most recently, Momiji Nishiya of Japan, who clinched gold at the street skating in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She is 13 years and 330 days old. There still could be more before this festival ends, fingers crossed.
Additionally, here are ten interesting facts about the Olympics that will fascinate you.
10 interesting facts about the Olympics
- The first Olympic Games took place in the 8th century B.C. in Olympia, Greece. They were held every four years for 12 centuries. Then, in the 4th century A.D., all pagan festivals were banned by Emperor Theodosius I, and the Olympics got cancelled. It was, however, resurrected about 1500 years later. Thus, the first modern Olympics were held in 1896 in Greece.
- In the early years of the games, fashion, sponsorship, and protection were not important factors. Athletes competed for the games fully nude, and the games lasted for five to six months.
- Women weren’t initially allowed to compete in the Olympic games, and it wasn’t till the year 1990 that women began to participate.
- From 1924-1992, the Winter and the Summer Olympics took place in the same year. Now, they’re on separate cycles and alternate every two years.
- The official languages of the Olympic games are English and French, complemented by the official language of the host country.
- Tarzan competed in the Olympics. Johnny Weissmuller, an athlete-turned-actor who played Tarzan in 12 movies, won five gold medals in swimming in the 1920s.
- Artists used to participate in the Olympics between 1912 and 1948. Painters, sculptors, architects, writers, and musicians competed for medals in their respective fields.
- During the 1936 Berlin Games, two Japanese pole-vaulters tied for second place. Instead of competing again, they cut the silver and bronze medals in half and fused the two different halves together so that each of them had a half-silver and half-bronze medal.
- The five rings of the Olympic symbol – designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, co-founder of the modern Olympic Games – represent the five inhabited continents of the world.
- The six colours – blue, yellow, black, green, red, and white background – were chosen because every nation’s flag contains at least one of them.
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