Making it to the Olympics is an immensely accomplishment in itself, making it in your earliest years is even more impressive. To qualify for the Olympics, you can be of any age. However, each International Sports Federation sets its own rules. According to CNN, the average age of athletes representing Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea is 26.5, a standard age range for athletes competing at this level. But a handful have reached or held onto elite status in their respective disciplines years earlier than their competitors.
A 17-year-old Chloe Kim took home an Olympic gold medal for snowboarding. The American snowboarder landed a near-perfect score of 98.25 at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. Kim actually qualified to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics, but she was still two years shy of the snowboarding’s minimum age limit of 15-years-old. “Looking back on it, I’m really glad I couldn’t go,” Kim tells TIME. “I don’t know how my 13-year-old self would have dealt with it.”
At 15 years old, Russian figure skater Alina Zagitova is already making waves in the sport. She's ranked fifth in the world as of January 21, and has the potential to win the gold at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Here's everything you need to know about skating's newest superstar.
Fifteen- year old Kexin Zhang is making her mark in the freestyle skiing competition. Her gold medal in the half pipe at the 2017 World Cup event in Secret Garden, People's Republic of China, made her the second-youngest female freestyle skier from any nation to win a World Cup half pipe gold medal, at age 15 years and 200 days. She is beaten by a single day by France's Anais Caradeux, who was age 15 years and 199 days when she won gold in Les Contamines, France in the 2005/06 season.
Jennie-Lee Burmansson is fifteen years old and competing in freestyle skiing as well. Representing Sweden in the games, she first tried skiing at age two. She moved on to freestyle skiing at age eight at the “Salens IF ski club” in Sweden. She became interested in the sport at the same time as her brother and biggest ambition since the start was to make it to the Olympics one day.
Alice Robinson, a 16-year-old girl from New Zealand competed in Alpine skiing in these past games. She became New Zealand's youngest Winter Olympian after competing at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang at age 16. In an interview for her Olympic 2018 profile, she stated, “I am so happy to be given this opportunity and am super-excited to be competing at my first Games so young...the idea of the Olympics seemed like a long shot, so I am so happy that my results over the past six months paid off and gave me a spot on the team. I don't mind being the youngest, I quite like it because I find it a bit more of a challenge."
Being an Olympic athlete is one unimaginable experience in itself. To be as young as fifteen years old, there is nothing quite like it.