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An eight-year-old Olympic medalist - it probably happened

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An eight-year-old Olympic medalist - it probably happened

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Olympic swimmer Gaurika Singh was in the headlines even before she had got into the pool in Rio, because she was the youngest competitor at this year’s Games, by a long way.

She represented her native Nepal in the 100 metre backstroke, though now lives and trains in Britain where her father works as a doctor.

Although she won her heat, her time was not fast enough time to go on to the next round, but the young swimmer is already looking forward to the 2020 Games.

Singh is 13 years and 255 days old, but she is not the youngest person ever to take part in the Olympics.

In fact there is no official minimum age, but the governing bodies of various sports can and do impose limits.

For example, gymnasts have to be at least 16 years old.

The mystery of the youngest ever male medalist

The youngest ever confirmed competitor was Dimitrios Loundras who won a team bronze medal on the parallel bars in 1896 in Athens at the first international Olympic Games held in the modern era.

The Greek athlete was just 10 years and 218 days old.

However in 1900, at the somewhat disorganised Olympic Games in Paris, it is possible that one of the rowing events included a coxswain as young as eight.

The boy was supposedly a last-minute substitution on the Dutch pairs boat, which won gold.

There is a photograph allegedly of him with the rowers François Brandt and Roelof Klein but his name and exact age were not recorded.

David Wallechinsky, author of a quadrennial reference book on the summer games and president of the International Society of Olympic Historians told the Wall Street Journal: “This is the great mystery of Olympic history.”

Youngest ever female medalists

Italian Luigina Giavotti was just 11 years and 301 days old when her team won silver in the artistic gymnastics at the 1928 Amsterdam Games.

The other two team members were almost as young – Ines Vercesi was 12 years and 99 days old and Carla Marangoni was 12 years and 269 days old.

Swimming was the sport for the youngest medal win among individual competitors, Denmark’s Inge Sørensen at 12 years and 24 days gained the bronze medal in the 200 metres Breaststroke in 1936.

Oldest competitors

The oldest ever medalist in an event that still exists was Sweden’s Oscar Swahn who won a silver medal in shooting at the age of 72 years and 281 days. That was in 1920. He had also taken part in the 1908 and 1912 Games and qualified for the 1924 Olympics but in the end didn’t compete.

However British graphic artist John Copley is officially the oldest medalist ever.

He won a silver medal in the art competitions which were a feature of the Olympics between 1912 and 1948.

Medals were awarded for works of art inspired by sport in five categories: architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture.

Copley’s engraving entitled ‘Polo Players’ earned him a medal just one month before his 74th birthday.

The oldest competitor at this year’s Games in Rio is Australian equestrian Mary Hanna who is 61 and taking part in her fifth Olympics.

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