Every four years when the Olympics roll around, we stand in awe at what the athletes can achieve in their chosen sports and Tokyo 2020 has been no different.

While we often get wowed by established stars like Simone Biles, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Adam Peaty and Caeleb Dressel to name just a few, it's sometimes more fascinating to look to the stars of future games and that has been very apparent in Japan.

We’ve seen many teenagers not only compete against older opponents but also triumph over them and walk away from Tokyo with a medal around their neck. 11 teenagers have competed in the games with both 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby winning the 100-metre breaststroke and 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya also winning gold in the inaugural women’s street skateboarding event, with the silver medal going to Rayassa Leal, who is even younger.

There could be more youthful success in the women’s skateboarding park event when the already highly-fancied Sky Brown, who is also just 13, bids for gold.

They continue a strong history of youngsters achieving well over the odds at Olympic games over the decades. Here is a brief rundown of those teenagers (and in one case a child) who etched themselves into the history books and won an Olympic medal, while they were still in school.

Dimitros Loundras

  • Nation: Greece
  • Age: 10 years, 216 days
  • Olympics: Athens 1896
  • Medal and sport: Bronze in Gymnastics

We’ll start with the youngest ever medallist at an Olympic games, Dimitros Loundras, who was just 10 years old when he competed as part of Greece’s bronze medal team in gymnastics at the first-ever Olympics in Athens 1896. There is some dispute about Loundras’s status though as in the Paris 1900 Olympics the winning Dutch rowing team are believed to have recruited a boy to their team who was aged between 7 and 10 but whose identity has never been discovered.

Luigina Giavotti

  • Nation: Italy
  • Age: 11 years, 301 days
  • Olympics: Amsterdam 1928
  • Medal and sport: Silver in Gymnastics

Two decades after Loundras’s success in Athens, Luigina Giavotti became the youngest ever female Olympic medallist when she won silver as part of Italy’s gymnastics team in 1928 which, as you’ll see, was a squad full of youngsters.

Inge Sorensen

  • Nation: Denmark
  • Age: 12 years, 21 days
  • Olympics: Berlin 1936
  • Medals and sport: Bronze in Swimming

Although Giavotti and Loundras both hold the record for the youngest Olympic medallist, Sorensen actually has the record for youngest individual medallist having placed third in the 200-metre breaststroke in 1936. Sorensen was a sensation during her career having also set numerous Danish swimming records and two world records.

Ines Vercesi

  • Nation: Italy
  • Age: 12 years, 216 days
  • Olympics: Amsterdam 1928
  • Medals and sport: Silver in Gymnastics

Also joining Giavotti on the podium for Italy in 1928 was Ines Vercesi, the second youngest member of that team.

Noel Vandernotte

  • Nation: France
  • Age: 12 years, 230 days
  • Olympics: Berlin 1936
  • Medals and sport: Bronze x 2 in Rowing

Vandernotte is not only the youngest Olympic medallist in French history, he is also the youngest person to ever win two medals at the same Olympics having won bronze in the coxed pairs and coxed fours rowing events at the 1936 games. He died aged 96 in June 2020.

Carla Marangoni

  • Nation: Italy
  • Age: 12 years, 269 days
  • Olympics: Amsterdam 1928
  • Medal and sport: Silver in Gymnastics

Rounding off the youngsters in that amazing Italy gymnastics team was Carla Marangoni. Amazingly she lived until she was 102 and passed away in 2018.

Dorothy Poynton-Hill

  • Nation: United States
  • Age: 13 years, 23 days
  • Olympics: Amsterdam 1928
  • Medal and sport: Silver in Diving

Poynton-Hill had only just celebrated her thirteenth birthday when she won silver in the 3m springboard event at the 1928 games in Amsterdam. That wasn’t the end of her Olympic journey though. She returned four years later in Los Angeles to win gold in the 10m platform event and defended that title at the 1936 games where she also won bronze in the 3m springboard event.

Dorothy Poynton-Hill (right) alongside the two other medallists in the women’s high board diving event in Berlin 1936 of the USA, bronze medallist Kathe Kohler from Germany (left) and silver medallist Velma Clancy Dunn of the USA (centre)

Rayssa Leal

  • Nation: Brazil
  • Age:13 years, 204 days
  • Olympics: Tokyo 2020
  • Medal and sport: Silver in Skateboarding

Here is a slightly more contemporary medalist in the form of Brazilian skateboarder Rayassa Leal who won silver in the first-ever women’s street skateboarding event. Leal had gone viral several years prior to Tokyo 2020 thanks to a video of her skating while dressed as a fairy. Definitely a star in the making.

Marjorie Gestring

  • Nation: United States
  • Age: 13 years, 268 days
  • Olympics: Berlin 1936
  • Medal and sport: Gold in Diving

Gestring holds the record for being the youngest ever person to win an Olympic gold medal having triumphed in the 3m springboard diving event at Berlin 1936. Sadly that was the only Olympics she ever competed at as the 1940 games were cancelled due to the break out of World War II. She did attempt to return for the 1948 games in London but failed to qualify for the team.

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Klaus Zerta

  • Nation: Germany
  • Age: 13 years, 280 days
  • Olympics: Rome 1960
  • Medal and sport: Gold in Rowing

Following in Gestring’s footsteps is Klaus Zerta who holds the record for being the youngest ever male gold medallist when he won the coxed pair rowing event at the 1960 games in Rome.

Momiji Nishiya

  • Nation: Japan
  • Age: 13 years, 330 days
  • Olympics: Tokyo 2020
  • Medal and sport: Gold in skateboarding

Finally, we end on the most recent young gold medalist, the aforementioned Momiji Nishiya who wowed the world when she won the first-ever women’s street skateboarding event. She is now the third youngest gold medallist even and the youngest gold medallist to ever come from Japan.

Will Sky Brown or other young Olympians be joining them in the history books? Only time will tell.

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