How Old Do You Have to Be to Compete in the Olympics?

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The Olympics and Paralympics grip the world every four years. Each time these events roll around, we’re astounded and inspired by the athletes and their commitment to their chosen sports. The life of an athlete can be a gruelling one, given how much time and energy is required for training in order to reach the Olympic level.

An interesting component of the Olympics is the varying age of each athlete. The differences in age of Olympians is incredibly inspiring, showing spectators that age doesn’t have to impact your chances to compete on the world stage. Australian Olympian Mary Hanna was the oldest competitor at the 2020 Tokyo Games, taking part in the equestrian competition at 66 years old.

Hanna is the second oldest female to compete in the Olympics, after British equestrian Lorna Johnstone who appeared in the 1972 Olympic Games in Germany. On the flip side, the youngest ever athlete took part in the first Games in Athens back in 1896. In fact, 10-year-old Greek gymnast Dimitrios Loundras won a bronze medal in a team event at that Games.

So, given Loundras competed all those years ago, is there an age limit to compete in the modern Olympics Games? Despite the first Games took place 125 years ago, the rules are still the same: there is no age limit set by the International Olympic Committee. But, there is a slight caveat to this.

Despite the IOC not having an age limit, each individual sport does have its own guidelines when it comes to the age of competitors. In the 2020 Tokyo Games, some of the youngest competitors were in the skateboarding events, as there is no current age requirement, while other events have a minimum and maximum age limit.

At the Toyko Games, then 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya took out the gold medal in the women’s street skateboarding competition, followed by fellow 13-year-old Rayssa Leal who landed silver. At 12 years old, Japanese skateboarder Kokona Hiraki and Syrian table tennis star Hend Zaza were the youngest athletes at these Games.

Gymnasts, on the other hand, must be at least 16 years old to compete in their Olympic sport, while divers must be 14 and up. Those competing in boxing must at least 18 years old and the oldest a boxing Olympian can be is 40, making this the only sport that caps the age of its competitors.

So there you have it! It all comes down to the particular sport and its own guidelines which dictate the minimum age of its Olympians. No matter what their age, an athlete’s involvement in the Games is also going to be cause for celebration.

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