The Best Teenage Athletes on Earth

The Best Teenage Athletes on Earth

Jonah Lynne, Reporter

Has it ever crossed your mind that today, a kid is sitting next to you in math class, but a few weeks ago they were in Tokyo, Japan as an Olympian? 

Although the International Olympic Committee has never restricted the age of competitors in the games, individual countries may impose certain limits. However, this hasn’t intimidated the best young athletes on the planet from representing their nations this summer in Tokyo. 

Here are only some of the young athletes who competed in the 32nd Olympiad:


1) Katie Grimes, 15, USA 

Grimes, who’s a sophomore in high school herself, qualified for the swimming 800 meter freestyle, alongside American Olympic legend Katie Ledecky, who also qualified as a teenager for her first Olympics at the London 2012 games. Grimes is the youngest member of team USA, and Ledecky noted at the Olympic trials that “it’s really full circle” seeing the reflection of herself in Grimes. 


2) Erriyon Knighton, 17, USA

Knighton competed in the 200 meter sprint on the track. He is the youngest male athletics (track and field) athlete to represent the United States since 1964. Knighton made it to the final of the event, where he came up just short of the podium to fellow American Noah Lyles. Knighton also currently holds the men’s under 20 world record in the event.


3) Quan Hongchan, 14, China

Quan competed in the women’s 10 meter diving platform event, where she scored the gold medal. Four of her five dives scored higher than a 95 on her way to an Olympic record, which means her average score was a 9.5/10 from the judges. Quan follows in a long lineage of dominant Chinese divers, who continued their prowess in these games by tying the record for most medals won by a nation in a single sport. Quan dedicates her gold medal to her ill mother. All this for someone the age of a freshman. How impressive!


4) Nishiya Momiji, 13, Japan

With the inaugural Olympic skateboarding events taking place in Tokyo, it was fitting to have Nishiya take home a medal for the home country. Being just 13, the youngest competitor in the women’s skateboarding street event, Nishiya won gold with a total score of 15.26 in the final. What’s as astonishing as that is that fellow 13 year old Rayssa Leal of Brazil won silver. The two athletes are only 7 months apart and look to battle for skateboarding’s top events for the rest of their careers.


5) Lydia Jacoby, 17, USA

Perhaps the most accomplished of the listed athletes, Jacoby won 2 medals for the United States in the pool: gold in the women’s 200 meter breaststroke and silver in the women’s 4×100 meter medley relay. However, despite her Olympic triumphs, Jacoby is still a high school student in Arkansas. Jacoby has also verbally committed to the University of Texas at Austin to compete in swimming starting in the 2022-23 season. Having begun swimming at the age of 6, Jacoby has prepared for more than half of her life just to stand on an Olympic podium.


With these Olympians leading the pack, the “next generation” of athletes are breaking through the boundaries of age and displaying their supreme athletic abilities. I already can’t wait to see what young athletes arrive at the 2024 winter games in Beijing!