Every two years the entire world watches the Olympic Games with awe and amazement at the skill of athletes from around the globe. As you would suspect, these athletes are predominantly young and in peak condition. In 2008, the average age of the United States Summer Olympic team was 26.8 years of age. However, that does not mean that only those in their 20s are capable of winning, and winning big. Throughout the history of the Games, teenage phenoms have been able to bring home gold for their countries. The youngest female American gold medalists in the Summer and Winter Games proved that you do not even have to be old enough to drive to come out on top.
Youngest American Female Summer Olympic Gold Medalist
Marjorie Gestring won the gold medal in 3-meter springboard diving in the Berlin Olympics of 1936. At the age of 13 years, 268 days, she became not only the youngest American to win gold at the Olympics, but she also became the youngest gold medalist from any country in the history of the Olympics. This record still stands today and looks to stand for quite some time as the minimum age of Olympic competitors is now 14 years of age.
Marjorie would continue her successful diving career, despite the cancellation of the 1940 Summer Games due to World War II. The United States Olympic Committee awarded her a gold medal in lieu of the 1940 Olympics after it was agreed that she would probably would have won the competition had the games been held.
Youngest American Female Winter Olympic Gold Medalist
Tara Lipinski won the gold medal in the Ladies Singles figure skating event in the Nagano Winter Olympics of 1998 at the age of 15. She is not only the youngest American female Winter gold medalist, but the youngest individual Winter gold medalist of any nationality. During the 1998 games, she bested favorite Michelle Kwan, who took the silver. After the short program, Kwan was in the lead, but Lipinski's long program was viewed and stronger technically, landing her the gold medal.
Lipinski's Olympic career would be short lived, as she retired from competitive skating and turned professional soon after the Nagano Games. Today, she does work as a figure skating commentator and supports various charities.
Olympic Gold Medalists Come in all Shapes and Sizes
One of the best things about the Olympic Games are the underdog stories that the Games bring us. While the teenage athletes are gifted physically and they have trained for most of their lives, to those of us that meet them for the first time during the Olympics they seem like underdogs that come out of nowhere.
Though they were 62 years apart from each other, Marjorie Gestring and Tara Lipinski were phenoms who used their immense skill and hardworking dedication to their sport to become national heroes and the youngest female American gold medalists in the history of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.