Three Latin words make up the Olympic motto: citius, altius, fortius or faster, higher, stronger. Meet some of the youngest and oldest iuvenissimus and maximus athletes from around the world who will fight for those ideals at the Tokyo Games.
Syria, table tennis
The fifth youngest Olympian in history and the youngest in Tokyo, Zaza is the only Syrian player to win national titles in four age groups: hopefuls, cadets, junior and senior. Zaza, at 12, is also the youngest Olympian since figure skater Beatrice Huștiu, the Romanian flag bearer for the 1968 Winter Games. Zaza, the youngest of four children, picked up her racket for the first time at age five. . Six years later, she defeated Lebanese Mariana Sahakian, 32 years her senior, in the Western Asia Olympic Table Tennis Qualifying Tournament to secure her place in Tokyo.
Great Britain, skate
Born in Miyazaki, Japan, Brown learned her craft through YouTube videos, becoming Nike’s youngest sponsored athlete. Her tricks extend beyond the half pipe: In 2018, Brown became ABC’s first and only winner. Dancing with the stars: Juniors. She earned bronze in the park’s competition at the ’19 World Skateboarding Championships. While training for the Tokyo Games, Brown fell while trying to cross two ramps and suffered a fractured skull and broken bones in his left wrist. He recovered, captioning a video from his hospital bed with “Never broken!” And was back on his board in less than two months. Brown will be the youngest British Olympian in history and is currently the world’s No. 3 park skater.
Grimes, who finished second to five-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky, swam 8: 20.36 in the 800m freestyle at the Olympic team events to become America’s youngest athlete at the Tokyo Games. She is also the youngest member of the swim team since Amanda Beard joined the team in 1996. Ledecky He said Grimes, “Hell, you are not the future, you are the now, you are the present.” Back home in Las Vegas, Grimes swims for the Sandpipers of Nevada, who produced 2016 4x100m gold medalist Cody Miller.
United States, rock climbing
Duffy began climbing at the Paul Derda Recreation Center in Boulder when he was three years old. He fell in love with the sport after breaking through a local Life Time Fitness wall when he was five years old and joined the elite ABC Kids Climbing team at eight. Since then, Duffy has won two Junior World Climbing Championships and took bronze at the 2021 Climbing World Cup. He will be Team USA’s youngest competitor in sport climbing, one of five new sports in the Summer Games.
United States, canoe slalom Age: 17
With two parents who worked as raft guidesLeibfarth knew the water as if it were his driveway. His father and instructor, Lee, coached the US Youth National Team between 1998 and 2002 and competed in individual kayak (K1) in the 2004 Whitewater Slalom Team USA Olympic team events. At age 15, Leibfarth became with bronze in women’s canoe at the ICF World Canoeing Slalom Cup ’19 and won gold at the Pan American Games ’19 in the K1 end. Leibfarth is the youngest US Olympian in the sport and will compete in the K1 slalom and individual canoe (C1) events.
Malik first won gold at the 2016 Indian National School Games and built on his success a year later on the international stage, winning gold in the 56kg weight class at the World Cadet Wrestling Championships ’17. Last year, Malik defeated 2016 bronze medalist Sakshi Malik, twice, and became the youngest Indian fighter to qualify for the Summer Games when she reached the 62kg final at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers.
United States, track and field
After finishing third in marathon events in 2020 to qualify for Tokyo, Abdirahman, a five-time Olympian, will be the oldest American runner to compete in the Summer Games. Abdirahman, who was born in Somalia, moved to Tucson when he was 12 years old and competed in the 10,000 meters at the 2000 Summer Games, finishing 10th in his first Olympics. Since then he has won three USATF outdoor championships in the 10,000 meters.
Five years before Simone Biles was born, Chusovitina won gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Her Olympic career has spanned three teams (the Unified Team, Uzbekistan, and Germany), four decades, and seven Summer Games; Chusovitina is the only female gymnast to compete in so many Olympics. In Tokyo, she will become the oldest Olympic gymnast in history.
Salukvadze made his Olympic debut at age 19 for the Soviet Union in ’88, taking gold in the 25-meter pistol and silver in the 10-meter air pistol. Later, in 2008, while Russia and Georgia were at war, Salukvadze competed against Russian marksman Natalia Paderina. Salukvadze and Paderina won bronze and silver, respectively, in the 10-meter air pistol, and the two hugged on the podium, and Salukvadze then called for peace between their two countries. Eight years later, Salukvadze and her son, Tsotne Machavariani, became the first mother-son tandem to qualify for the same Olympics. She will be the first woman to appear in nine Games.
Luxembourg, table tennis
Thirty-eight years ago, Ni won his first gold in mixed doubles and team competitions at the World Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo. When she returns to Japan for the Summer Games, Ni will become the oldest Olympic table tennis player. Ni, representing Luxembourg, defeated Yang Xiaoxin, representing Monaco, 4-2 to win bronze at the 2019 European Games and secure their Olympic qualification.
Hanna, who has competed in the 1996, 2000, ’04, ’12 and ’16 Summer Olympics, will become the second-oldest Olympian after Australia announced her spot on her team. Competing in the individual, team and individual dressage disciplines, Hanna’s best result came in ’96 when she placed 24th in the individual event. She was joined on the men’s side by 62-year-old equestrian and three-time gold medalist Andrew Hoy, who will be Australia’s oldest male athlete when he competes in his eighth Olympics.
More coverage of the Olympics:
• Meet Team USA
• Caeleb Dressel is a swimming machine
• The games continue, with a new purpose
• A guide to the five new Olympic sports
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.