You might think competing at the Olympics is very much a young person’s pursuit.
In truth, the Games is a broad church when it comes to age and there’s no greater example of the wide range of ages participating in the Games than in skateboarding.
In the women’s street event for the sport that is making its Olympic debut, 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya won gold, while in the men’s event, Rune Glifberg is participating at age 46.
One of Glifberg’s competitors – Dallas Oberholzer – is just a few months younger than his Danish rival, and despite being one of sport’s elder statesmen, he’s still making sure he sticks to promises he made to his mom.
“Day one practice at the Olympics was a cooker!” he said on Instagram.
“Got this low to high ollie to smith just before it also gifted me a hipper. Feeling out the lines around what I call Mt Fuji, the center piece. Sh*ts gnarly and way bigger than what I’m used to, so I took it easy and besides my Mom did say I mustn’t get hurt.”
On Wednesday, 12-year-old Kokona Hiraki became the youngest Olympic medalist in 85 years with her silver medal in the women’s park final.
Team GB’s Sky Brown, aged 13 years and 28 days old, also became Great Britain’s youngest Olympic medal winner of all time as she earned bronze in the same event.
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Two ends of the spectrum
The youngest athlete suiting up for the Tokyo Games is Hend Zaza, a 12-year-old table tennis player from Syria.
When she made her debut on July 24 in her preliminary match, Zaza was exactly 12 years and 204 days old, the youngest ever table tennis Olympian.
Her opponent on her Olympic debut – which the Syrian player lost – was Austria’s Liu Jia who, at 39 years old, was more than three times Zaza’s age.
Zaza is also the youngest Olympian since 1992, when 11-year-old Carlos Front competed in the rowing and 12-year-old Judit Kiss participated in the swimming.
If not for the year postponement of the Games due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zaza would have made her debut aged 11 but believes the delay was beneficial to her.
“Because of the delay, I trained more and participated in training camps … my performance improved,” she told reporters before the start of the Games.
Australian Mary Hanna is the oldest competitor in Tokyo – at 66, she is 54 years older than Zaza.
Equestrian rider Hanna is competing at her seventh Olympics and becomes the second-oldest female to compete at an Olympics.
The youngest known Olympian to take home a medal was 10-year-old Dimitrios Loundras, who finished third in the team parallel bars at the 1896 Olympic Games.
But there may have been a younger medalist; according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a young French boy was a cox for a Dutch coxed pairs rowing team in 1900. He took part in the medal ceremony and was photographed. But, despite years of research, his name and age remain unknown – he’s estimated to have been between 7 and 12.
The USA’s Marjorie Gestring won gold in the springboard diving event at the Berlin 1936 Games, becoming the youngest-ever female Olympic champion at 13 years and 268 days old.
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Oscar Swahn, a Swedish shooter, was 72 years old when he competed in his third and final Olympics in 1920. He ended his career with a total of six medals, three of which were gold. To date, he is the oldest medalist in Olympic history.
There’s no specific age limit for taking part in the Olympic Games, but each International Sports Federation sets its own limits. However, gymnasts must be 16 years old to compete at the Games.