Youngest Winter Olympians Ever

10 Youngest Winter Olympians in History

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing just ended and new crop of young athletes made impressive debuts. While most modern Winter Olympic sports require that participants be at least 15 years old, there is no official age requirement for the Games as a whole. This was the case in the past, as many of the Winter Olympians on this list were pre-teens during their first Olympic appearances. Many of the young athletes on this list competed in several Olympic Games and many even won medals.

10. Toni Nieminen (May 31, 1975 – Present)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 16 years, 8 months, 8 days
Year: 1992 Winter Olympics
Country: Finland
Sport(s): Ski Jumping

Toni Nieminenphoto source: olympics.com

 

Toni Nieminen represented Finland at the 1992 Winter Olympics in ski jumping. Nieminen won three medals at those Olympic Games, two golds and a bronze. He remains the youngest ever Winter Olympic male gold medalist, at the age of 16 years, 8 months, and 8 days.

Nieminen also won the 1991 World Cup and the Four Hills Tournament. At the time, the transition from the parallel style to the V-style was taking place and Nieminen was one of the first to master the new technique. Following the 1992 Olympics, Nieminen could not keep up with his earlier winning streak and only won one more World Cup in 1995. Nieminen retired from ski jumping in 2004, but decided to make a comeback in 2016. He has said that he would like to return to the World Cup.

Did You Know?

Toni Nieminen is the first male ski jumper to land a jump surpassing 200 m (660 ft), which he achieved in 1994 with a world record of 203 m (666 ft) on the ski flying hill in Planica.


9. Alina Zagitova (May 18, 2002 – Present)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 15 years, 8 months, 22 days
Year: 2018 Winter Olympics
Country: Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR)
Sport(s): Figure Skating

Alina Zagitovaphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Alina Zagitova is one of several young Russian figure skaters, who have taken the world by storm in the past decade. Zagitova is the 2018 women’s figure skating Olympic champion. She was only 15 years old during the Games. She is also the 2018 European champion and Russian national champion, as well as the 2017-18 Grand Prix Final champion.

Zagitova has set many records and first over her career, which is still ongoing. She is the youngest and second ladies’ singles skater, after Yuna Kim, to win gold in all major ISU championship titles including the Junior Grand Prix Series and Final, World Junior Championships, Grand Prix Series and Final, European Championships, World Championships, and Winter Olympic Games. Zagitova has broken the world record once under the old system and four times under the new system.

Did You Know?

Alina Zagitova is the first Muslim athlete to win an Olympic figure skating gold medal, a world title, and the Super Slam.


8. Tara Lipinski (June 10, 1982 – Present)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 15 years, 7 months, 28 days
Year: 1998 Winter Olympics
Country: USA
Sport(s): Figure Skating

Tara Lipinskiphoto source: Popsugar

Tara Lipinski is one of the most famous young Winter Olympians and was the darling of figure skating in the late 1990s. Lipinski competed in her first and only Winter Olympics in 1998, where she became the women’s figure skating champion. She is the youngest figure skater to win an Olympic gold medal. While Lipinski’s competitive skating career only lasted a few years, she won every competition she entered. Lipinski retired from competitive figure skating after winning the Olympics.

Lipinski did continue to skate professionally and performed in over 300 live shows before retiring from the sport for good in 2002. Since then, Lipinski has worked as a sports commentator, and she has been NBC’s primary figure skating commentator – with Johnny Weir – since 2013.

Did You Know?

Tara Lipinski is the first woman to complete a triple loop-triple loop combination, her signature jump, in competition.


7. Andrea Mitscherlich (December 1, 1960 – Present)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 15 years, 2 months, 3 days
Year: 1976 Winter Olympics
Country: East Germany
Sport(s): Speed Skating

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Andrea Mitscherlich (now Andrea Ehrig) is a four-time Winter Olympian who represented East Germany in speed skating. Mitscherlich, competed at her first Winter Olympics in 1976 and won the silver medal in the 3,000 m event. She competed in next three Olympics (1980, 1984, and 1988) and won seven medals overall (one gold, five silvers, and one bronze).

Outside of the Olympics, Mitscherlich is a five-time World Champion and two-time European Champion. During the 1980s, Mitscherlich was considered one of the greatest long-distance speed skaters in the world.

Did You Know?

Andrea Mitscherlich is one of only three winter athletes in any sport to win five silver medals.


6. Scotty Allen (February 8, 1949 – Present)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 14 years, 11 months, 21 days
Year: 1964 Winter Olympics
Country: USA
Sport(s): Figure Skating

Scotty Allenphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Scotty Allen is youngest American winter Olympian ever. Allen was 14 years old at the 1964 Winter Olympics, where he won a bronze medal. He still holds the record for being the youngest male medalist and the youngest individual medalist at the Winter Olympics.

Allen grew up figure skating and made his national debut at the age of nine. He won the silver medal in the novice division at the 1959 U.S. Championships and Allen was the youngest t competitor ever to skate in the Championships, at the time. In addition to his bronze Olympic medal, Allen won a silver medal at the 1965 World Championships. After retiring from professional figure skating, Allen attended Harvard and Columbia Business School. He spent more than 30 years at his stepfather’s clothing company, Corbin Ltd., eventually becoming its vice-president of research and development.

Did You Know?

Scotty Allen is a descendant of U.S. Revolutionary War hero, Ethan Allen.


5. Kim Yun-Mi (December 1, 1980 – Present)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 13 years, 2 months, 11 days
Year: 1994 Winter Olympics
Country: South Korea
Sport(s): Speed Skating

photo source: Olympedia

 

Kim Yun-Mi is one of the few young Winter Olympians who was not a figure skater. Kim was 13 years, 2 months, and 11 days old during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. She won the gold medal in 3000 m short track speed skating relay. Kim still holds the Guinness World Record for being the youngest Olympic gold medalist ever.

Kim competed again at the 1998 Winter Olympics and won another gold medal in the same short track relay event. In addition to her two Olympic golds, Kim won three World Championships, three Asian Winter Games, four Junior World Championships, and eight International Challenger Cups. After retiring from speed skating, Kim moved to the United States to become a speed skating coach.

Did You Know?

Following Kim Yun-Mi’s first gold medal win at the 1994 Winter Olympics, the ISU (International Skating Union), raised the minimum age requirement in speed skating to 15 years old.


4. Alain Giletti (September 11, 1939 – Present)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 12 years, 5 months, 3 days
Year: 1952 Winter Olympics
Country: France
Sport(s): Figure Skating

Alain Gilettiphoto source: skateguard1.blogspot.com

Alain Giletti is another figure skater, who appeared in the Winter Olympics before he was a teenager. Giletti made his Olympic debut in 1952 at the age of 12. He placed seventh at his first Olympics and went on to compete at the next two Winter Olympics (1956 and 1960). Giletti finished just missed the podium both times, finishing in fourth.

Although Giletti never won an Olympic medal, he won five European Championships and one World Championships. Giletti left competitive skating in the early 1960s and turned professional. He toured with Holiday on Ice and another show called Scala-Eis-Revue. Giletti later became a figure skating coach and continues to train French figure skaters.

Did You Know?

Alain Giletti mainly competed as a singles skater, but he also did pair skating with partner Michèle Allard. Giletti and Allard are the 1956 French national champions.


3. Jan Hoffmann (October 26, 1955 – Present)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 12 years, 3 months, 11 days
Year: 1968 Winter Olympics
Country: East Germany
Sport(s): Figure Skating

Jan Hoffmannphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Jan Hoffmann is the youngest male Winter Olympian in history. Like many of the other young winter athletes on this list, Hoffmann was a figure skater. Hoffmann appeared in his first Olympics in 1968 when he was only 12 years old. He only placed in 26th, but Hoffmann’s career picked up as he got older.

At the next Winter Olympics in 1972, Hoffmann placed sixth. Then, in 1973, Hoffmann won his first medal, a bronze, at the European Championships. Hoffmann’s first gold came in 1974 at the European Championships in Zagreb, Croatia. Over the next decade, Hoffmann continued to rack up medals at the European and World Championships. At the 1980 Winter Olympics, Hoffmann won a silver medal. He retired from competitive figure skating later that year and went on to become orthopaedic specialist.

Did You Know?

Jan Hoffmann is one of a handful of skaters who rotated clockwise, which means that he landed on his left foot.


2. Sonja Henie (April 8, 1912 – October 12, 1969)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 11 years, 9 months, 17 days
Year: 1924 Winter Olympics
Country: Norway
Sport(s): Figure Skating

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Sonja Henie was a legendary figure skater, who influenced many skaters who came after her. Henie grew up participating in a wide variety of sports, including skiing, tennis, swimming, and equestrian. When Henie decided to focus on figure skating, her wealthy father hired the best experts in the world, including famous Russian ballerina, Tamara Karsavina, to transform Henie into a figure skating superstar.

Henie, who is from Norway, won her first figure skating competition, the senior Norwegian Championships, when she was 10. The following year, Henie competed at her first Winter Olympics (1924) and finished eight. It took a few years, but Henie eventually dominated figure skating. Over her career, Henie won three Olympic gold medals, 10 World Championships, and six European Championships. Henie won more Olympic and World titles than any other ladies’ figure skater.

Did You Know?

Besides Katarina Witt, Sonjia Henie is the only figure skater to win a ladies’ singles Olympic title more than once.


1. Cecilia Colledge (November 28, 1920 – April 12, 2008)

Age at Time of Winter Olympics: 11 years, 2 months, 7 days
Year: 1932 Winter Olympics
Country: Great Britain
Sport(s): Figure Skating

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Cecilia Colledge was only 11 years, 2 months, and 7 days old when she competed in figure skating at the 1932 Winter Olympics, making her the youngest winter Olympian ever in history. Colledge, who grew up in London, England, took up figure skating after watching the 1928 World Championships, which took place in London that year. She was coached by Eva Keats and Jacques Gerschwiler and qualified to represent Britain at the 1932 Winter Olympics. Colledge placed 8th, but her career was just beginning.

Colledge went on to win a silver medal at the 1933 European Championships. She won the British National Title in 1935 and also snagged a bronze medal at that year’s European Championships, as well as a silver medal at the World Championships. In 1936, at the age of 15, Colledge represented Britain again at the Winter Olympics. Her second time around, Colledge won the silver medal, becoming one of the youngest figure skating Olympic medalists. Over the next few years, Colledge won gold medals at the European Championships between 1937 – 1939.

 

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