The Oldest, Youngest, Biggest And Smallest Olympians

Hiroshi Hoketsu

[credit provider=”(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)”]

Do you look like an Olympic athlete? If you are aged 26, weigh 72.8kg and are 176.9cm tall then the answer is yes.Thanks to the first comprehensive scrape of every London 2012 Olympic athlete we can create a real picture of what kinds of people compete in the games.

We analysed the 10,383 Olympians taking part in the London 2012 Games to see the spread of ages, heights and weights across the sports for men and women. And if you think you know what it takes to compete in the Games, you may find some of the results surprising.


If you imagine that all Olympic athletes are young, then you would be wrong – while the average is 26, there are 187 athletes over 40 at this year’s games, including the eldest, Hiroshi Hoketsu, 71 years old, who competed in the dressage for Japan. There are two 65 year-olds: Afanasijs Kuzmins is a Latvian shooter and Ian Millar, a Canadian show jumper. Most over-50s are competing in equestrian and shooting but there is a 52 female rower, Canadian Lesley Thompson-Willie who has won silver in the women’s eight – and Britain’s oldest gold medal winner, 54-year-old Nick Skelton.

Look at each sport and there’s a lot of variation too: rhythmic gymnastics has an average age of 19 – while for the equestrian events it’s 38. But within that there are still some surprises: mountain bike cycling for instance, has an average age of 33 and for beach volleyball it’s 29. The youngest Olympian is a Togan women’s 50m freestyle competitor, Adzo Kpossi, who is just 13, one of 33 Olympians aged 15 and under.

And it varies by country too – with the caveat that this probably reflects the sports they are entering. The French team average is 27 – a year above the overall figure. For Germany it’s the same, and the Danish team has an average of 28. Overall, the youngest team is Laos, but it only has three members, two of whom are aged 16 or under. Of the teams with over 100 members, China’s is the youngest at an average of 24.3 and Sweden’s is the oldest – with an average age of 28.4.



Height and weight are dependent on sex. Taking a look at men’s heights, the tallest male athlete stands at 2.21m is Chinese basketball player Zhaoxu Zhang but a close second is 23-year-old Russian volleyball player, Dmitriy Muserskiy at 2.18m. The shortest is a 21-year-old Tuvaluan weight lifter standing at 1.40m tall, Lapua Lapua. The tallest female athlete is a basketball player from China, Wei Wei who is 7cm over the 2m mark. The shortest is Jamaica’s 4 X 100 relay runner Schillonie Calvert, standing at just 1.35m.

Serbia, with 108 athletes, is the tallest of the bigger teams – standing at a proud average of 1.86m, nearby Croatia is just behind at 1.85m. Iceland’s 25 athletes are the tallest though – towering over the rest at an average of 1.9m. The smallest big team are the Japanese – at 1.7m, although the successful North Korean team has an average height of 1.62m.


Weights were a bit trickier in that certain sports (Boxing, Gymnastics, Synchronised swimming, Taekwondo and Trampoline) did not give weights for their athletes. Taking this into account, the heaviest male athlete is Ricardo Blas Jr, a Judo competitor from Guam. The lightest is China’s Yuan Cao who won a gold in the Men’s Synchronised 10m Diving. The heaviest woman is an American weightlifter, Holley Mangold, weighing in at 157kg. The lightest woman is Yadan Hu from China. Weighing just 36kg she competed in the 10m Diving.

Croatia – one of the tallest teams – is also one of the heaviest: its average weight is 84kg, just above Serbia. The lightest large team is Colombia’s group of 106 athletes at an average of only 63.4kg, followed closely by Japan at 64.2kg.


Body mass
An interesting find in the data is that even though height and weight is dependent on sex, the sports which have the highest/lowest average weight/heights are the same for both sexes. We even checked for average BMI. The sport with the highest average height is of course basketball with an average of 2m for men and 1m 87cm for women. The sport with the shortest athletes is Artistic Gymnastics with an average height of 1m 67cm for men and 1m 55cm for women. The sport with the highest BMI is weightlifting and the sport with the lowest is the Triathlon.


Team GB v Team USA

Britain and the United States have the largest two teams in the Olympics with over 1,000 athletes between them – but how do they compare?

Well, team GB is younger, lighter and smaller than their trans-Atlantic counterparts. Its average age is 26.3, compared to 27.1 for the US – a gap of 3%. It is also 2% lighter at an average of 74.5kg, compared to 75.9kg.

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