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Momiji Nishiya, 13, Wins Skateboarding Event in Tokyo: Is She the Youngest Olympic Gold Medalist?

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Skateboarding - Women's Street - Medal Ceremony - Ariake Urban Sports Park - Tokyo, Japan - July 26, 2021. Momiji Nishiya of Japan poses with her gold medal during medal ceremony.
© REUTERS / LUCY NICHOLSON

Both Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky debuted at the Olympics as 15-year-olds. But the Americans were not the youngest athletes to appear in the quadrennial mega-event, nor were they the youngest medal winners at the Games. A 10-year old Greek gymnast named Dimitrios Loundras was the youngest person to have ever participated in the Olympics (1896).

Japanese skateboarder Momiji Nishiya clinched the gold medal in the women's street skateboarding competition on Monday, becoming one of the youngest gold medal winners in the history of the Olympics. However, the 13-year-old isn't the youngest player to claim the yellow metal at the Games.

There have been plenty of child prodigies who have captured gold medals at the Olympics in the past. Take a look at the five youngest Olympians ever, who have bagged a gold medal for their respective countries.

Marjorie Gestring (United States) - 13 Years and 268 Days

While most 13-year-olds wanted to spend more and more time with their school friends, US diver Marjorie Gestring was not just competing in the Olympics, but was putting up a grand show at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

To date, she is the youngest ever athlete to have brought home a gold medal from the Olympics, a feat she achieved at the age of 13 years and 268 days by winning a 3m springboard event in the German capital.

An expert in producing perfect somersaults, twists and turns while mixing pikes, Gestring couldn't defend her Olympic title as the 1940 and the 1944 Games were cancelled due to the Second World War.

Klaus Zerta (Germany) – 13 Years and 283 Days

Klaus Zerta is the youngest ever male gold medallist in the history of the Olympics.

He was only 13 years and 283 days old when he won a gold medal in the men's coxed event alongside Bernhard Knubel and Heinz Renneberg at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.

Zerta still holds the record for being the youngest German Olympic Champion ever.

Momiji Nishiya (Japan) – 13 Years and 330 Days

Japan's Momiji Nishiya became the first-ever women's Olympic street skateboarding champion, overcoming stiff challenge from another 13-year-old -- Brazil's Rayssa Leal, and her 16-year-old countrywoman Funa Nakayama to grab the gold.

It was possibly the first time when three athletes aged 16 and under made it to the podium at the Olympics. 

​At 13 years and 330 days, she also became the third-youngest gold medallist in the Games' history after her heroics in the Japanese capital. Nishiya, who won a silver medal at the 2021 world championships in Rome, made history with a score of 15.26.

On the other hand, Leal and Nakayama clinched silver and bronze with a score of 14.64 and 14.49 respectively at Tokyo's Ariake Park on Monday.

Fu Mingxia (China) - 13 Years and 345 Days

Fu Mingxia came into the limelight after she won a gold medal at the platform-diving world championship in 1991 as a 12-year-old. She was the youngest diving world champion of all times. But Fu became a global icon after she earned a gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, aged just 13 years and 345 days. 

She completely dominated the event, registering a score of 461.43 points, nearly 50 points ahead of her closest competitor.

Fu went on to secure three more gold medals during her illustrious Olympic career, winning the gold twice at the 1996 Atlanta Games followed by a gold medal in Sydney in 2000.

Nadia Comaneci (Romania) - 14 Years and 243 Days

Regarded as one of the greatest gymnasts ever, Romania's Nadia Comaneci became the first to achieve a perfect score in gymnastics at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and she did it all as a 14-year-old.

Comaneci, making her debut at the Games, made history as she accomplished a perfect score of 10.0 during her uneven bars routine. The Romanian opened her campaign with a mesmerising 30-second display and the rest, as they say, is history.

Comaneci received three more perfect 10 scores on her way to a hat-trick of gold medals in Canada. During the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, Comaneci repeated the feat twice en route to her double gold medal winning streak.

"I had no idea it was the first time in the history of the Olympics, I just knew it was the highest score I could get," Comaneci told the BBC about her historic achievement.

"I was really happy. It was like being in school and getting a 10 in a Maths test."

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