Beyond the skill, sportsmanship, pride and inspiration, the Tokyo Olympics are also proof that age is just a number.
With young athletes making waves as they face off against athletes twice or even three times their age, the Games have shown what happens with athletes of all ages come together on the world’s biggest stage.
According to the International Olympic Committee, “there is no specific age limit for taking part in the Olympic Games.”
Rather, the age restrictions depend on each International Sports Federation and the rules of each sport.
But for many, like skateboarding, which boasted some of the youngest competitors of the Tokyo Games, no restrictions exist.
It explains why competitors ranged in age from 12-year-old Kokona Hiraki, Japan’s youngest Olympian ever, to 46-year-old Rune Glifberg, the oldest skateboarder at the Tokyo Games.
In the women’s street event in Week 1, three young teens — 13, 13 and 16 — won gold, silver and bronze.
In diving, however, the age limit is 14 years old to compete in an Olympic Games.
That restriction gave way to another teen sensation, China’s Quan Hongchan, who scored two perfect dives in the women’s 10m platform on her way to an historic gold medal. The 14-year-old scored seven 10s on two of her dives — a perfect score — and was 0.5 points away from doing it a third time on her final dive on her way to shattering the previous Olympic record.
The youngest athlete in the Tokyo Games is Hend Zaza, 12, a table tennis player from Syria. She is the youngest Olympian since 1992, when 11-year-old Carlos Front competed for Spain in rowing and 12-year-old Judit Kiss participated in the swimming for Hungary. Zaza is also the youngest table tennis Olympian in history. In her Olympic debut in Tokyo, Zaza was defeated by Austria’s Liu Jia who, at 39 years old, was more than three times Zaza’s age.
Tokyo 2020’s oldest competitor is 66-year-old Australian equestrian Mary Hanna, who has said she already is looking forward to 2024 Games in Paris, which would be her seventh Olympics.
“I don’t know what else to do with myself,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for so long now. Look, riding’s one of those amazing sports where you can do it no matter what your age is, or your gender.”
Facts about ages in the Tokyo Olympics:
- The youngest member of Team USA is 15-year-old swimmer Katie Grimes; the oldest is equestrian Phillip Dutton, 57.
- At 44, Abdi Abdirahman is the oldest runner to ever make a U.S. Olympic track and field team. He will run in the marathon on Sunday. Abdirahman is a veteran of four Olympics Games. He was born in Somalia and became a American citizen in 2000.
- China’s Lyu Xiaojun, 37, became the oldest man to win an Olympic gold medal in weightlifting when he claimed the 81kg title
- Greysia Polii, 33, is the oldest athlete to win a gold medal in badminton.
- At 62, Australia’s Andrew Hoy became his nation’s oldest Olympic medal winner with a silver in individual eventing and a bronze team eventing. Hoy who took part in his first Olympics in 1984 and won team gold in 1992. Asked whether it was experience that had taken his team to the podium, Hoy said with a smile: “I think it’s age.”
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