Perhaps a little surprisingly, the history of the Summer Olympics is awash with tales of plucky teenagers – and, in one unconfirmed report, a prepubescent boy – who have not only contested, but won, gold medals. The prepubescent boy in question was an unidentified local lad, recruited by Dutch rowers Françoise Brandt and Roelof Klein as a lightweight replacement for regular coxswain Hermanus Brockman in the final of the men’s coxed pairs at the 1900 Olympics in Paris. If he was, in fact, presented with gold medal, which is not altogether clear, he would almost certainly be the youngest gold medallist in Olympic history, for all that his name and age remain unknown.
The youngest confirmed Olympic gold medallist, though, was Marjorie Gestring, who was 13 years and 268 days old when she took top honours for the United States in the women’s 3-metre springboard diving at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Donna Elizabeth de Varona, who swam for the United States in the heats of the women’s 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, was actually 139 days younger than Gestring, but did not receive a gold medal because she did not swim in the final.
Coincidentally, the youngest confirmed male Olympic gold medallist in history also participated at the 1960 Games and, like the mysterious youngster from six decades previously, was a coxswain in the men’s coxed pairs. However, his name was Klaus Zerta, he was 13 years and 283 years old and he represented the ‘United Team of Germany’.