The Tokyo Olympics came out of the gate as one of the most unusual in living memory. COVID-19 changed everything most of us remember about past Olympic Games, like fans in the stands, friends and family on hand cheering on their beloved athletes. There is still pomp and circumstance, but of course it is more subdued than what we remember. There is one especially bright spot for this year’s Olympic Games, however; there are some young athletes who are not really old enough to remember too many past games. I mean, their massive accomplishments will make you feel incredibly old, sure, but it’s sort of sweet too, right?
This year’s Olympic Games opening ceremony featured a lot of young faces.
Young performers singing John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s song “Imagine,” flag bearers dancing around the stage, and then there were the athletes themselves. Countries like Syria, Great Britain, and the United States all featured athletes who have not yet reached voting age, and yet they are preparing to compete on the world stage. While the youngest athlete to ever compete in the Olympics was 10-year-old gymnast Dimitrios Loundras in 1896, these athletes aren’t far off. Hend Zaza, Syria, 12
Hend Zaza is only 12 years old.
Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza is the youngest athlete to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Zaza is the youngest of four siblings who started playing table tennis very young, she told CGTN in an interview, “I picked up the racket in 2014 when I was five years old. I was mainly attracted to table tennis when my brother Obaida Zaza became the Syrian national champion.” She has already won four national championships in different age groups, so she’ll be one to watch at this year’s Olympic Games. Cocona Hiraki, Japan, 12
Cocona Hiraki is a veteran at 12 years old.
Japanese skateboarder Cocona Hiraki has been on the path to greatness in her sport since she was 10 years old. She is the youngest Japanese summer Olympian to ever compete in the games, and she already broke the world record as the youngest person to
compete at the X Games in 2019 when she was just 10. Not that she is sweating the pressure; she told The Japan Times at her qualifying competition in Iowa in 2019, “I was enjoying it just as usual. I wasn’t as nervous as usual.” Ah, youth. Sky Brown, Great Britain, 13 Sky Brown is a 13-year-old skateboarder. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images Sky Brown is the ultimate skater girl. At just 13 years old, she is representing Great Britain at the 2020 Olympics and has in fact been competing professionally since she was eight years old. As skateboarding has only been an Olympic sport since 2016, Sky is really at the forefront of the sport. She is currently ranked number three in the world. Katie Grimes, U.S., 15 Katie Grimes is a 15-year-old swimmer. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Swimmer Katie Grimes from Nevada is the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team. She made the team by finishing second to five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky,
who told Grimes, “Heck, you're not the future, you’re the now, you're the present,” per Team USA. Colin Duffy, U.S., 17 Colin Duffy is one heck of a climber. Andy Bao/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Colin Duffy became the youngest climber to ever qualify for the Olympics at 16 years old in 2020. The Colorado native first tried wall climbing at his local gym when he was five years old, and he took the bronze medal at the
2021 World Climbing Cup when he was just 17 years old. Climbing is one of the five new sports featured at the Tokyo Olympics this year. Evy Leibfarth, U.S., 17 Evy Leibfarth is carrying on a family tradition. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
North Carolina native
Evy Leibfarth has been competing in canoe slalom since she was just 12 years old. Now at 17, she is a seasoned athlete with several national championship and World Cup medals under her belt. It’s a family tradition to compete on the water, as her father Lee Leibfarth competed in the kayak singles at the 2004 Team USA Whitewater Slalom Olympic Team Trials.
Evy is the youngest U.S. Olympian to compete in her two events, kayak singles and canoe slaloms. Impressive.
Momiji Nishiya, Japan, 13 Momiji Nishiya is one to watch. BSR Agency/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Momiji Nishiya won the Olympic gold medal for Japan in women’s street skateboarding in Tokyo. She is the
youngest-ever gold medal winner for Japan, and how exciting to pull it off in her home country. Nashiya told Global News that it was an emotional win for her; “I welled up in tears because I was beyond happy.” Rayssa Leal, Brazil, 13 Rayssa Leal first caught the attention of Tony Hawk. Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images
Another women’s skateboarder from Brazil, Rayssa Leal earned herself a silver medal in women’s street skateboarding behind her fellow 13-year-old competitor Nishiya. Leal first came to everyone’s attention when she was just seven years old and Tony Hawk shared a video of her skateboarding in a
fairy tale dress and blue wings on Twitter with the message, “I don't know anything about this but it's awesome: a fairytale heelflip in Brazil by @RayssaLeal.” She’s got talent and style, apparently. Claire Curzan, U.S., 17 Claire Curzan is one talented swimmer. David Ramos/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
At 17 years old, U.S. Olympic swimmer Claire Curzan is already considered a “prodigy” when it comes to the butterfly stroke. By the time she was 12 years old the North Carolina native was competing against 18-year-old swimmers at meets around the country, and winning. It helps that she
comes from a family of swimmers and told The Guardian that she has always “loved water and being in it. So, I guess that drew me to it.” Quan Hongchan, China, 14 Quan Hongchan is China’s youngest Olympic athlete. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
At 14 years old, diver Quan Hongchang is the youngest Olympic athlete at the Tokyo Olympics.
She has been diving since she was just seven years old in 2014, but this year’s Olympic games are her first time on the world stage. She will be competing in the women’s 10 meter diving event, and will be one to watch for sure. Just like all of these other incredible young athletes.