(TOKYO) — Sky Brown doesn’t know a world without iPhones, Teslas or Netflix. But she does know how to skateboard — very, very well.
The 13-year-old Brit is in Tokyo this week looking to make Olympic history. If she wins the women’s park competition, she would become the youngest individual gold medalist ever — in any sport.
American diver Marjorie Gestring, who won gold at the 1936 Games in Berlin in the 3-meter springboard, currently holds the record for youngest individual gold medalist at 13 years and 268 days. Brown just turned 13 on July 8.
But Brown isn’t even the youngest rider in the field for women’s park.
Japanese skater Kokona Hiraki is just 12 years old.
Hiraki won the most recent Japanese national championship, but a gold in Tokyo would be a big upset. She’s ranked the sixth best skater in the world, with Misugu Okamoto, 15, and Sakura Yosozumi, 19, both also from Japan, ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively.
Brown is currently third in the rankings.
Brown is coming off her first X Games win in July, but that competition did not feature Okamoto or Yosozumi. Still, she beat fellow Olympians American Bryce Wettstein and Australian Poppy Starr Olsen.
Of course, even if Brown does come up short in Tokyo, winning a gold in 2024 at 16 years old is no small feat.
Gestring, sadly, never got a chance to defend her Olympic gold. The 1940 and 1944 Games were canceled due to World War II, and while she tried to qualify for 1948 — at the ripe old age of 25 — she did not make the team.
Age requirements do not apply
Anyone who follows women’s gymnastics knows about the scandals in the sport caused by athletes’ ages. Gymnasts must turn 16 during the Olympic year to qualify — an age requirement mandated in 1997.
In 2008, China’s gymnastics team came under suspicion for using athletes who did not meet the minimum age requirement following a report by The New York Times. Gymnastics’ governing body, Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique, or FIG, conducted an investigation and found no reason to strip the country’s team gold.
But skateboarding has no age requirements for the Olympics. The rules are determined not by the International Olympic Committee but by the sport’s governing body, which in this case is World Skate.
Coincidentally, Brown was born just weeks before the Chinese gymnastics team won its gold in 2008.
The IOC itself has no age requirements, stating in its charter, “There may be no age limit for competitors in the Olympic Games other than as prescribed in the competition rules of an IF as approved by the IOC Executive Board.”
Some notable requirements for minimum age to compete in the Summer or Winter Olympics include: boxing (18), figure skating (15), diving (14), cycling (19), equestrian (18 for jumping, 16 for dressage) and alpine skiing (16).
USA Track and Field mandates women must be 14 to compete, while men can be any age.
Like skateboarding, sports such as swimming and rowing have no age requirements.
But unlike skateboarding, snowboarding does have a minimum age to compete in the Winter Olympics — 15. In 2014, the best female snowboarder in the world was American Chloe Kim. But at just 14, she was not eligible to compete, even though she had just won X Games gold.
Kim went on to win gold at the 2018 Games in South Korea.
Youth is served
Just days before Brown was to begin her quest to become the youngest individual Olympic champion ever, Brazil’s Rayssa Leal almost stole that crown — and in Brown’s own sport.
Leal, who turned 13 in January, very nearly won the gold in skateboard street. That would have made her the youngest Olympic champion ever, for at least a week.
But the young Brazilian was edged out by another 13-year-old, Momiji Nishiya, and had to settle for silver.
But with Nishiya turning 14 at the end of the month, she’s not younger than Gestring when she won the gold in 1936.
Third place on the skate street platform went to 16-year-old Funa Nakayama, giving the podium an average age of just 14.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.