For the second time for few and a first time for many, people born under the Generation Z (Gen Z) category will make their first appearance in the Olympic Games later this month in Tokyo, Japan. Generation Z, dubbed as the “Tik-Tok generation” by many news outlets online, range in birth years from the late 90’s to the early 2010’s.
Things that are unique to this generation is that there is a technology split. For example, 90’s and early 2000’s “Gen Z’ers” remember dial-up internet, inflatable furniture, pay to talk/text, cassette tapes in vehicles, and Walkman CD players; those born in the mid-2000’s do not. The later born Gen Z remember only CD players in cars, Bluetooth speakers, Facebook always being around, and remember only iPhones- not flip ones.
Another thing unique to this generation is that all of them remember the financial crisis of 2008. Most of them grew up watching family members struggle with money, so this in turn was able to motivate a majority of the group. Because they were so motivated, this generation has accomplished a majority of tasks very early on in life–even becoming an Olympian.
This year’s Olympic Trials saw the first-time later Generation Z born people would make an appearance. Most of the athletes born in the mid 2000’s that participated in trials were able to use the extra year between the regular 2020 games and the 2021 postponed games to get stronger and be more prepared. In the swimming trials, according to nbcolympics.com, “Michael Andrew, the youngest American swimmer to ever turn professional ate age 14, made his first Olympic team at age 22 with a win in the 100-meter breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.”
An article on SI.com from Pat Forde about the U.S. Women’s Olympic Swimming Team states, “Coach Greg Meehan heads an American women’s delegation that includes a whopping 10 teenagers among the 26 roster spots: one 15-year-old, two age 16, a 17-year-old from Alaska, two at 18 and four at 19.”
Katie Grimes, the 15-year-old on the team, came in 2nd place to Olympian and record breaker Katie Ledecky, now 24, in the women’s 800-meter freestyle in the Olympic Trials. Now, they are both going to Tokyo together to compete in the same event.
In track and field, 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton, who has famously broken records set by Usain Bolt, leads the team. The team also features Louisiana State University jumper JuVaughn Harrison, 22, who won the long jump and the high jump contest during trials. Fun Fact: if he competes in both, he will be the first American to compete in both since Jim Thorpe in the 1912 Olympics that took place in Stockholm, Sweeden.
In women’s gymnastics, fans of powerhouse Simone Biles are eager to see the “GOAT: Greatest Of All Time” return to defend her Olympic titles. Simone at 24-years-old is classified as an early-born Gen Z.
The oldest member of the team, McKayla Skinner, 24, is just a few months older than Biles. She will serve as an event specialist in Tokyo. Jade Carey, the other specialist, is 21 years old, making her the third-oldest person on the team. Sunisa Lee, just 18-years-old and the youngest on the team, came in 2nd place to Biles at the trials, securing her an automatic spot to Tokyo. Jordan Chiles, 20, is known for being Biles’ prodigy. Biles, who took Chiles under her wing in 2019, persuaded the gymnast to move to Tex. to train with her. Now, they are both heading to Tokyo together. Grace McCallum, 18, made the team even after requiring surgery on her hand in January.
It is amazing to see the high level of youth performances in both the trials and the actual games this year. Time can only tell when the next little league, swim team, track-star, or pop warner champion will make themselves known and be the next young and rising Olympian to watch.