August 9, 2016
Have you noticed that Olympic athletes seem to be getting older?
You’re not crazy. According to a study done by Venngage infographics, the average age of Olympic athletes has risen from 23 in 1896 to 25 in 2012. But when you break it down by event, it gets a little more interesting. While the overall average age of Olympic athletes has risen, in certain sports like gymnastics and swimming, they have actually gotten steadily younger.
Gymnasts have, on average, decreased in age from around 27 in 1896 to 23.4 in 2012. But for track & field athletes, the case is the opposite: the average age for track & field athletes rose from around 22 to 26.5 in 2012.
So why is there this trend? While there are no conclusive reasons, the study posits that the fact that “Olympic athlete” is now a viable career path, due to private sponsorship, means that athletes are dedicating their entire careers to the Olympics. Because of that, they are also beginning their training from a much younger age than in the past, in order to meet the greater competition that they face: in 1986 there were 241 participants across 14 countries. Today, in 2016, there are 10.5 k participants across 207 countries.
This year’s oldest athlete, on the other hand, is equestrian Mary Hanna, who is 61. So what’s the general trend in the ages of Olympic athletes? On the other hand, the youngest athlete, gymnast Gaurika Singh, is only 13 years old. One thing is clear: in the 2016 Olympics, age is no limit.
The key findings Venngage’s study are compiled in the infographic below.
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