You know the old adages about age:
“You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.”
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
“Age is just a number.”
Yes, age is just a number, and it’s usually a number that only goes up. However, if it’s the average age of an Olympic gymnast, the number was up, then came down, but is now going back up!
A report from FiveThirtyEight shows that the teeny-boppers who now dominate the sport of Olympic Women’s Gymnastics weren’t always so young. This year’s team, with an average age of 22, is the first one in a number of years that doesn’t have a member under the age of 18.
At the 1968 Mexico City Games, the median age was 20 years, 1 month. It dropped to 18 years, 2 months, in 1972. Then it was in the 16’s or 17’s from 1976 through 2000. It was in the 18’s in 2004 and 2008, then the 19’s in 2012 and 2016.
And, it’s not just the American teams, the last time any nation with a full team roster had no teens was at the 1964 Tokyo Games. Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina, 46, will break her record for most Olympic gymnastics appearances (Tokyo will be her eighth) as she sets the new record for oldest Olympic female gymnast, one that previously stood since 1928.
Some experts have said that the reason the average age got younger was a shift in the sport away from graceful dance routines and into the flashier tumbling and flips. Could the drive for ratings of Olympic broadcasts and thus ultimately sponsorships and endorsements have driven this swing?
I think Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee said it very well, “Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.”
As always, best wishes for the continued health of our all our USA Olympic Athletes.