Teens take over the Tokyo Olympics. You can thank the pandemic


The Games are a snap in Tokyo. The pandemic, of course, changed the dynamics

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Perhaps Summer McIntosh’s most impressive skill isn’t her speed in the pool.

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She can also really hold a conversation, according to her roommate in the Olympic Village.

“We’re having good discussions,” said Canadian gold medalist Maggie Mac Neil. “She’s such a mature 14 year old girl, I can’t believe it. I don’t know what I was doing when I was his age. It’s amazing the amount of information provided and the way she handles the pressure and just the attention. She really is something else and I can’t wait to see what she does for the rest of the competition and in the future.

Mac Neil, 21, is entering his final year at the University of Michigan this fall. McIntosh is getting ready for grade 10 at Toronto’s Silinsiorn Collegiate.

By the time the high school student is in the same school stadium as Mac Neil, she could finish her third Olympics in 2028.

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The Games are a snap in Tokyo. The pandemic, of course, has changed the dynamics.

If the Olympics had taken place in 2020, many of these kids wouldn’t have been ready. The delay gave them an extra year to grow up and, in many cases, to train like professionals for the first time in their lives.

Not being outdone and having run hours after an exciting fourth place in the 400-meter freestyle final, the 14-year-old McIntosh showed she intended to be a factor in any event. what a test she would participate in.
Not being outdone and having run hours after an exciting fourth place in the 400-meter freestyle final, the 14-year-old McIntosh showed she intended to be a factor in any event. what a test she would participate in. Photo by Aleksandra Szmigiel /REUTERS

In addition, the late start sounded the death knell for some veterans, who were unable to follow the youngsters during testing. The US swim team sent 11 teenagers to Japan, including 10 women.

Some sports do not have age restrictions. Syrian Hend Zaza, whose training was interrupted by the civil war, qualified for the women’s table tennis tournament last year at the age of 11. She beat up a 42-year-old woman to reserve her spot.

Now 12, Zaza is the youngest Olympian since Romanian figure skater Beatrice Hustiu competed in the 1968 Winter Games.

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If you’re already in grade 10 and dreaming of Olympic glory, skip the skatepark.

Chances are you are too old.

On Monday, the inaugural women’s street event produced her youngest podium for an individual event in Games history. The average age was 14 years, 191 days, a big win for the early stages of adolescence.

Japanese skateboarder Momiji Nishiya edged 13-year-old compatriot Rayssa Leal of Brazil for gold while host country’s bronze medalist Funa Nakayama is 16, two years old with a driver’s license in the host country.

Nishiya topped an unusually young group of competitors, all three medalists being teenagers.  Brazilian silver medalist Rayssa Leal is also 13, while bronze medalist Funa Nakayama, also from Japan, is 16.
Nishiya topped an unusually young group of competitors, all three medalists being teenagers. Brazilian silver medalist Rayssa Leal is also 13, while bronze medalist Funa Nakayama, also from Japan, is 16. Photo by Patrick Smith /Getty Images

Leal, at 13 years and 203 days old, narrowly missed becoming the youngest champion of the Summer Games. She is still the youngest athlete to win a medal since 1936.

And don’t forget Sky Brown, the youngest member of the British team. She has just turned 13 and is a professional boarder at 10.

This is the same age that the Greek child Dimitrios Loundras had at the first modern Olympics in 1896. The 10-year-old gymnast won bronze in the team event.

Children have the skill and the will. Some are also immune to pressure with a hint of impetuosity.

“I am so happy to win the Olympics in Japan,” Nishiya said. “I want to be the famous one that everyone knows. I also want to win in Paris 2024.

If that happens, she will be a back-to-back Olympic champion – at 16.

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