Some haven’t even graduated high school yet.
The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will introduce viewers to a vast array of ambitious new athletes. But don’t expect every Olympian you see to be an adult. This year’s Winter Games will see a number of teens compete, some of whom have yet to even graduate high school. Here’s a look at some of the youngest Olympians expected to compete in Beijing.
Officially speaking, there’s no age requirement for Olympic participation. But although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not set a minimum participation age, international sports federations do. Or rather, they establish age requirements for professional competition. The International Skating Union (ISU), for example, which operates as the governing body for figure skating, speed skating, and other competitive ice skating sports, requires skaters to be at least 15 years old.
This year, the Winter Games will see at least one 15-year-old competitor take the ice in figure skating. Despite her young age, Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) athlete Kamila Valieva is considered to be a top contender for Olympic gold. She’ll face off against 16-year-old Alysa Liu of Team USA.
They’re not the only teens ready to vie for a spot on the podium. Viewers can expect to see teenagers compete in snowboarding, freestyle skiing, speed skating, and even hockey. Here are 10 inspiring teens to watch at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics:
Yuma Kagiyama, 18
The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will be the first Games for 18-year-old Japanese figure skater Yuma Kagiyama. The teen joins 24-year-old silver medalist Shoma Uno and 27-year-old two-time Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu to make up Japan’s 2022 men’s figure skating team.
Of course, Kagiyama isn’t completely new to the Olympics. He won a gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne in 2020. The teen is also coached by his father, two-time Olympic figure skater Masakazu Kagiyama. In fact, Kagiyama told Olympics.com that it was through watching his father and playing around on the ice as a young child that he became interested in pursuing competitive figure skating. With his father’s coaching, Kagiyama is hoping to earn himself an Olympic medal in Beijing.
Eileen Gu, 18
Although born in California, 18-year-old freestyle skier Eileen Gu won’t be competing with Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Instead, Gu will compete for China under her official competition name of Gu Ailing Eileen.
According to Olypics.com, Gu’s mother emigrated to the United States from China in her 20s and Gu has maintained close ties to both the country and her Chinese heritage. “Since I was little, I've always said when I'm in the U.S., I'm American, but when I'm in China, I'm Chinese,” she told ESPN after she announced her decision to compete for China in 2019. At the time, Gu said she hopes to promote skiing in China and inspire more Chinese youth to try out similarly extreme sports
Gu, who also models, started skiing when she was just 3 years old. She entered her first ski competition at the age of 9, ESPN has reported. More recently, she took home gold medals in Big Air and Half Pipe at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne and three medals in Half Pipe, Slopestyle, and Big Air at the 2021 X Games.
Sofia Nadyrshina, 18
At 18, Russian snowboarder Sofia Nadyrshina is already a world champion and three-time junior world champion. Last year, at age 17, she captured not one, but three gold medals at the International Ski Federation Snowboard and Freeski Junior World Championships. A few months later, she took home the gold in the women’s parallel giant slalom event at the International Ski Federation Alpine Snowboard World Cup.
Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) athlete hopes to add Olympic medalist to her resume with the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
Tessa Maud, 18
Raised in Carlsbad, California, 18-year-old snowboarder Tessa Maud has been working toward competing in the Olympics for just about her entire life. Her mother told Fox5 San Diego that Maud showed not only an interest but a real passion for snowboarding at age four.
“We were up in Mammoth and she would see these kids with a coach looking down from the chairlift and she would say, ‘I want to snowboard with them, not with you,’” the news outlet reported Maud’s mom, Janel, said.
By the age of 8, Maud was a member of the Mammoth Snowboard Team. In 2020, she captured two silver medals at the Junior World Championships and came in fourth at the 2020 Youth Olympics Snowboarding Halfpipe event. She heads to Beijing to compete in the women’s Snowboard Halfpipe event.
Courtney Rummel, 18
Two months after her 18th birthday, Courtney Rummel was named a member of the U.S. Women’s Snowboarding Olympic team. According to CBS 58, Rummel first began snowboarding when she was just 8 years old. At the time, she simply wanted to keep up with her older brother, who’d taken up the sport. Within a few years, however, Rummel realized she really loved Slopestyle snowboarding. She picked up a coach and began competing. At age 14, she was named to the U.S. team and began focusing on one day making it to the Olympics.
But the road to the Olympics hasn’t been completely smooth sailing for Rummel, who hails from West Bend, Wisconsin, and recently graduated high school. She told CBS 58 she almost gave up the sport completely two years ago after experiencing a difficult year on the slopes. Ultimately, her older brother came out to train with her in an effort to help her rediscover her passion for the sport, the news outlet reported.
After two years of hard work and competitions (not to mention multiple World Cup top 15 finishes), Rummel’s Olympic dream is coming true.