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Young Stars Make Noise, Win Medals at Tokyo Olympics

Washington
Suni Lee
Suni Lee

At the Tokyo Olympics, the youngest competitors – some of whom are only in middle school – made a huge impression on the biggest stage. From the preteens who dominated women’s skateboarding to the young American swimmers who stepped up big, here are some of the most impressive Olympic performances by teenagers:

Women’s platform diving

It’s impressive to be an Olympian at age 14. It’s even more impressive to win a gold medal. But China’s Quan Honchan took it to the next level, receiving perfect 10 scores from all seven judges in the women’s individual 10m platform final on not one, but two of her five dives. Her final winning score of 466.20 shattered the previous Olympic record of 447.70.

In the synchronized platform event, two more young Chinese women secured gold. Chen Yuxi, 15, and Zhang Jiaqi, 17, also dominated, winning gold by more than 50 points.

Women’s street and park skateboarding

The youth movement in skateboarding showed up in Tokyo, especially on the women’s side, where all six medalists are teenagers.

 

In women’s street, all three medalists were teens: gold medalist Momiji Nishiya of Japan and silver medalist Rayssa Leal of Brazil are both only 13, while 16-year-old Funa Nakayama of Japan took bronze.

In women’s park, teens – including two Japanese – swept the medals again: Sakura Yosozumi, 19, won gold to countrywoman Kokona Hiraki’s silver. Hiraki is only 12, and bronze medalist Sky Brown is 13.

Momiji, Leal, Hiraki and Brown are some of the youngest medalists ever, especially in recent years. Before them, the last 13-year-old to win a medal was Fu Mingxia, a Chinese diver who was less than a month away from her 14th birthday when she won gold in individual 10m platform in 1992.

Keegan Park, 18: Men’s park skateboarding

Compared to the teenagers dominating women’s skateboarding, the men’s skateboarders who medaled were grizzled veterans, with an average age of 23.4 among five of the medalists. But the sixth was 18-year-old Keegan Park of Australia, who took home the gold medal in men’s park.

Anastasija Zolotic, 18: Taekwondo women’s 57kg

No American woman had ever won gold in taekwondo until Anastasija Zolotic beat Tatiana Minina of the Russian Olympic Committee in the gold medal bout of the women’s 57kg.

Alberto Ginés López, 18: Men’s sport climbing

An 18-year-old Spaniard became the first gold medalist ever in sport climbing. Alberto Ginés López held on despite finishing last among the finalists in bouldering, thanks to his first-place finish in speed and fourth in lead.

Athing Mu, 19, and Keely Hodgkinson, 19: Women’s 800m

When she won gold in the women’s 800m, 19-year-old Athing Mu became the youngest American woman to earn a gold medal in a track and field event since 1964, when Wyomia Tyus finished first in the 100m. Mu also broke the American record.

The silver medalist, Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain, is also just 19.

Christine Mboma, 18: Women’s 200

At 18, Christine Mboma made history for her country, Namibia, when she took the silver in the women’s 200m. She is only Namibia’s second Olympic medalist ever, and the first woman, after Frankie Fredericks. Fredericks completed the unusual feat of winning silver in both the men’s 100m and 200m in back-to-back Olympics (1992 and 1996).

Women’s swimming

The U.S. swimming team that qualified for the Tokyo Olympics was the youngest since 1996, especially on the women’s side. Lydia Jacoby, 17, shocked even herself when she won the 100m breaststroke over defending Olympic champion and fellow American Lilly King. She also contributed to the silver in the 4x100m medley relay.

Regan Smith, 19, demonstrated her versatility by medaling in two different strokes plus a relay: silver in the 200m butterfly, bronze in the 100m backstroke and silver in the 4x100m medley relay. Two more 19-year-olds medaled in the individual medleys: Emma Weyant took silver in the 400m version, while Kate Douglass earned bronze in the 200m.

 

Men’s swimming

The only male teenager on the U.S. swim team, Jake Mitchell, didn’t medal in the 400m freestyle, but another young man pulled off a big upset. Ahmed Hafnaoui was the slowest qualifier in the final yet came away with the gold medal. The 18-year-old won only the fifth gold medal for Tunisia.

Elsewhere, Tomoru Honda, 19, won the silver in the men’s 200m butterfly.

Women’s gymnastics

Eighteen-year-old Suni Lee, the youngest member of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team in Tokyo, finished her Olympics with three medals: team silver, individual all-around gold and uneven bars bronze.

Two Chinese teenagers finished 1-2 on the balance beam, where Guan Chenchen, 16, won gold and Tang Xijing, 18, earned silver. Another teenager to win a medal in an individual event was Yeo Seo-jeong, 19, who became the first South Korean woman to medal in gymnastics with her bronze medal on the vault.

Daiki Hashimoto, 19: Men’s gymnastics

Daiki Hashimoto became the youngest-ever winner of the men’s individual all-around at 19. He also picked up the gold medal on the high bar and contributed to Japan’s silver medal in the team event. Most of the other individual medalists in men’s gymnastics in Tokyo are in their mid to late 20s.

Nevin Harrison, 19: Women’s canoe single 200m

Canoe sprint introduced several new events in Tokyo to create parity between the men’s and women’s events. Nevin Harrison of the U.S. took advantage, winning the first gold in the women’s canoe single 200m.

Hannah Roberts, 19: BMX Freestyle

In another new event at the Tokyo Olympics, the BMX freestyle, Hannah Roberts took silver. The 19-year-old had been favored to win but came up short against Great Britain’s Charlotte Worthington, who is 25.