The youngest and oldest Olympians at Tokyo 2020
The Olympics have just begun and we are already seeing incredible performances from some of the youngest and oldest Olympians to date.
Many people believe the Olympics has a minimum age of 16 to compete, as that is the age requirement for gymnastics, one of the most popular sports to watch. However, each individual sport sets their age requirements, and there is no universal minimum age for Olympians.
Hend Zaza in her preliminary round against Austria's Liu Jia. Photo: Luisa Gonzáles/Reuters
The youngest competitor in the Tokyo games is 12-year old Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza. She started playing table tennis at five years old, inspired by her older brother’s victory in a table tennis championship.
Her journey to the Olympics has entirely taken place during the Syrian civil war, she described her experience to the International Table Tennis Federation as "During the conflict, we had a lot of difficulties, and we didn't train much, or travel between cities, so I had to face hardships. Even the paddles and balls were difficult to obtain." (ittf.com, 23 Mar 2021; news.cgtn.com, 14 Sep 2020).
Zaza exited the games on Saturday after losing 4-0 in her first-round match against Austria’s Liu Jia (39).
Olympic skateboarding, added to the Olympic games in 2016, has no minimum age requirement. This sport brings young competitors such as Kokona Hiraki (12), Japan’s youngest olympian ever to compete in the Summer games, and Sky Brown (13), Great Britain’s youngest summer olympic athlete.
On the other side of the age spectrum, according to the International Olympic Committee’s official rules, there is no single age maximum to compete in the Olympics. Only one sport has an age maximum requirement. In boxing for the 2020 Tokyo games, competitors between 18 and 40 are allowed to compete.
Australian equestrian, Mary Hanna rides in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The oldest athlete competing in the Tokyo Games is Australian equestrian Mary Hanna (66), competing in her sixth games. She is joined by her Australian equestrian teammate, Andrew Hoy (62), competing in his eighth olympic games and the oldest male Olympian in Australian history.
Uzbekistan’s Oskana Chusovitina (46) breaks records as the oldest woman to ever compete in Olympic gymnastics. She made history on Sunday when she competed in her eighth Olympic games, inspiring young gymnasts that they can continue to practice the sport for many more years.
Despite not qualifying for the vault finals this year, she was met with a standing ovation from fellow gymnasts and fans.