A Glance At Some of the Young Talent Set to Shine at Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics

16th April 2021, London Aquatics Centre, London, England ; 2021 British Swimming Selection Trials

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A Glance At Some of the Young Talent Set to Shine at Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics

With less than a month until the Olympic flame lights up the Tokyo sky, most teams around the globe have finalized their rosters for the Games. While familiar faces are littered throughout many of the teams, there is an impressive crop of youngsters set to make their Olympic debuts.

It takes a certain kind of grit to claw one’s way to the Olympics. To do so at a young age is particularly noteworthy, as many squads feature veterans who have succeeded at previous international competitions. Still, some prodigies find a way to make it — much like Michael Phelps, who reached his first Olympic Games at 15.

Across the pond, 16-year-old Jacob Whittle is preparing to compete for Great Britain. Whittle is one of many young swimmers who benefited from the Games being delayed a year. While he had posted solid times, especially for his age, the extra year allowed him to solidify his place on Team GB.

At the 2021 British Swimming Selection Trials, Whittle posted a time of 48.76 in the 100-meter freestyle. That time is more than half a second quicker than Caeleb Dressel’s time at that age. Since Trials, the young Brit has managed to whittle his time down to 48.55. Whittle figures to play a key role on Great Britain’s 400 freestyle relay. If the teenager keeps up his development, he may find himself as one of the faces of the British team in the near future.

Meanwhile, host nation Japan also has an impressive talent coming through in Ageha Tanigawa. The 18-year-old had a Trials to remember as she upset veteran Sakiko Shimizu to clinch Olympic qualification in the 400 individual medley. She was elated following the race.

“I still can’t believe it,” Tanigawa said to the media at the trials. “The Olympics have been a dream since I started swimming. I am so happy.”

The result was a notable surprise as Tanigawa’s personal best before the meet was almost a full second and a half slower. Her teammate, Yui Ohashi, is one of the favorites for gold coming into this Olympics. With a mentor like Ohashi, Tanigawa is only likely to improve.

While the Olympic Games will grab a majority of the attention and headlines, the Paralympics will feature plenty of young talent as well.

Isabella Vincent is a remarkable case of determination. Vincent, 15, has sacral agenesis which keeps her wheelchair bound. This cannot, however, keep her from getting in the pool. Vincent will be the youngest member of the Australian team heading to Tokyo this year, with her best events being the 100 and 400 freestyle.

A hydrotherapist was the springboard for Vincent’s swimming career, and around three years after beginning hydrotherapy, she’s heading to her first Paralympics. Due to her being unable to generate power from her legs, her training with Norwood Swimming Club has focused on developing upper body strength. In an interview with ABC Radio Adelaide, Vincent outlined her excitement heading into the Games.

“It will be my first time competing overseas, so that will be very different for me – not being able to bring my family to support me — but I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’m really excited because it’s completely different to any other racing I’ve done,” Vincent said.

Swimming at the Olympic Games will begin July 24 and end on August 1, while the Paralympics will have swimming events running from August 24 through September 5. For these athletes and many more young competitors, it will be a competition to remember.