Three Latin words make up the Olympic motto: citius, altius, fortius, or faster, higher, stronger. Meet some of the iuvenissimus and maximus—the youngest and oldest—athletes from around the world who will strive for those ideals at the Tokyo Games.
Syria, table tennis
The fifth-youngest Olympian ever and the youngest in Tokyo, Zaza is the only Syrian player to win national titles in four age groups: hopes, cadets, junior and senior. Zaza, at 12 years old, is also the youngest Olympian since figure skater Beatrice Huștiu, Romania’s flag-bearer for the 1968 Winter Games. The youngest of four siblings, Zaza first picked up her racket at five years old. Six years later she defeated Lebanon’s Mariana Sahakian, 32 years her senior, at the West Asia Olympic Table Tennis Qualification Tournament to secure her spot in Tokyo.
Great Britain, skateboarding
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 the first, and only, winner of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars: Juniors. She took bronze in park competition at the ‘19 World Skateboarding Championships. While training for the Tokyo Games, Brown fell while attempting to cross two ramps and suffered a skull fracture and broken bones in her left wrist. She recovered, captioning a video from her hospital bed with “Never Broken!!”, and was back on her board in less than two months. Brown will be the youngest British Olympian ever and is currently the world’s No. 3-ranked female park skateboarder.
Finishing second to five-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky, Grimes swam a 8:20.36 in the 800-meter freestyle at the Olympic Team Trials to become the U.S.’s youngest athlete at the Tokyo Games. She’s also the youngest swim team member since Amanda Beard made the 1996 squad. Ledecky told Grimes, “Heck, you're not the future, you’re the now, you're the present.” Back home in Las Vegas, Grimes swims for the Sandpipers of Nevada, who produced 2016 4x100 meter gold medalist Cody Miller.
U.S., rock climbing
Duffy began climbing at the Paul Derda Recreation Center in Boulder when he was three. He fell in love with the sport after traversing a local Life Time Fitness’s wall when he was five and joined the elite ABC Kids Climbing team at eight. Since then, Duffy has won two Climbing World Youth 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 at the Summer Games.
U.S., canoe slalomAge: 17
With two parents who worked as raft guides, Leibfarth knew the water like it was her driveway. Her father and instructor, Lee, coached the U.S. junior national team between 1998–2002 and competed in the kayak single (K1) at the 2004 Team USA Whitewater Slalom Olympic Team Trials. At 15 years old, Leibfarth took bronze in women’s canoe at the ‘19 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup and won gold at the ‘19 Pan American Games in the extreme K1. Leibfarth is the U.S.’s youngest Olympian in the sport and will compete in the K1 and canoe single (C1) slalom events.
Malik first took gold at India’s 2016 National School Games and she parlayed her success one year later on the international stage, winning gold in the 56 kg weight class at the ‘17 Cadet World Wrestling Championship. Last year Malik defeated 2016 bronze medalist Sakshi Malik, twice, and became India’s youngest female wrestler to qualify for the Summer Games when she reached the 62 kg finals at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers.
U.S., track and field
After finishing third at the marathon trials in 2020 to qualify for Tokyo, Abdirahman, a five-time Olympian, will be the oldest U.S. runner ever to compete at the Summer Games. Abdirahman, who was born in Somalia, moved to Tucson when he was 12 and competed in the 10,000 meters at the 2000 Summer Games, finishing 10th at 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 across three teams (the Unified Team, Uzbekistan and Germany), four decades and seven Summer Games—Chusovitina is the only female gymnast to compete in that many Olympiads. In Tokyo, she will become the oldest Olympic gymnast ever.
Salukvadze made her Olympic debut at 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 shooter Natalia Paderina. Salukvadze and Paderina won bronze and silver, respectively, in the 10-meter air pistol, and the two embraced on the podium, with Salukvadze later calling 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 Olympic Games. She will be the first woman to appear in nine Games.
Luxembourg, table tennis
Thirty-eight years ago, Ni won her first golds 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-ever table tennis Olympian. Ni, representing Luxembourg, defeated Yang Xiaoxin, who represents Monaco, 4–2 to win bronze at the 2019 European Games and secure her Olympic qualification.
Hanna, who has competed in the 1996, 2000, ‘04, ‘12 and ‘16 Summer Olympiads, will become the second-oldest female Olympian after Australia announced her position on its team. Competing across the individual eventing, team eventing and individual dressage disciplines, Hanna’s top finish came in ‘96 when she placed 24th in the individual event. She’s 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.
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