Winter Olympics

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - OCTOBER 29: Alysa Liu of the United States skates in the Women's Short...
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10 Of The Youngest Athletes Competing In The 2022 Winter Olympics

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:

Kamila Valieva, 15

While Kamila Valieva is the youngest member of the Russian Olympic Committee’s (ROC) 2022 Women’s Olympic Figure Skating team, she’s reported to be a strong favorite for Olympic gold. The 15-year-old is two years younger than teammates Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova, both of whom will be 17 years old when the Winter Games kick off in Beijing in early February.

Despite her young age, Valieva has already quickly established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the figure skating world. Last year, the 15-year-old set two new world records (beating score records she’d previously set) with her free skate performance at the Rostelecom Cup in Sochi. Earlier this year, Valieva bested herself again to set another, even higher world record in the short program. She now holds the highest women’s free skate score ever seen (185.29), the highest women’s combined total score (272.71), and the highest short program score (90.45).

Alysa Liu, 16

Valieva won’t be the only young teen looking to land a spot on the medal podium at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. In fact, she faces some fierce competition in 16-year-old Alysa Liu of Team USA. To quote two-time Olympic medalist and five-time World champion Michelle Kwan, “Alysa really is the future of figure skating.”

In 2019, Liu, then just 13 years old, became the youngest person to ever win the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. She captured the title again in 2020 and took home the pewter medal in 2021. This year, she was forced to withdraw from the national championships after testing positive for Covid-19 despite being the highest-ranking U.S. woman in the figure skating world this season, according to NBC Sports.

Despite the withdrawal, Liu’s strong performance throughout the season landed her a spot on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Figure Skating team after 14-year-old Isabeau Levito placed third at nationals. According to Britannica, figure skaters must be at least 15 years old by July 1 of the prior year in order to be eligible for Olympic competition, effectively making Levito too young for the team.

Matěj Švancer, 17

Born in Prague, Czech Republic, 17-year-old freeskier Matěj Švancer moved with his family to Austria when he was around 10 years old, according to his Red Bull Athlete profile. But while Švancer has been skiing since he was young, he only got into freestyle skiing — which sees competitors perform aerial flips, spins, and other tricks — a few years ago.

In 2019, he took first place at the World Rookie Fest held in Livorno, Italy. The following year, at just 15 years old, Švancer won the Big Air gold medal at the Youth Games in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 2021, he captured the Junior World Championship title in Slopestyle following competitions in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. He’ll compete in Beijing as part of the Austrian Olympic Freeski team.

Matvei Michkov, 17

Matvei Michkov was just 16 years old when became the youngest national team player in the history of both Russia and the USSR last year, according to Olympics.com. Now, 17, the ice hockey player is already being watched by National Hockey League (NHL) teams eager to draft him in 2023 when he turns 18, The Hockey News has reported.

Until then, Michkov will help the ROC 2022 men’s hockey team vie for another gold medal following their win at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.

Jordan Stolz, 17

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At 17, Jordan Stolz is set to become one of the three youngest men to compete in long-track speed skating at the Olympics, following in the footsteps of Eric Heiden and Emery Lehman, both of whom competed while 17 years old in 1976 and 2014, respectively. According to Yahoo!, Stolz came in first at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials with an impressive time of 1:07:62. But the incredible speed Stolz displayed at trials is more than just impressive. According to NBC, it has made him a “bona fide medal threat” in the Winter Games men’s speed skating 1,000-meter event.

Raised in Kewaskum, Wisconsin, Stolz began skating at the age of 5. He told NBC, he’d watched the speed skating events at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics on TV and found the sport exciting. Seeing his interest, Stolz’s father enrolled him and his sister in an ice skating class and plowed a short track around a pond in the family’s backyard. Stolz has been unstoppable ever since.

Yuma Kagiyama, 18

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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.