Gymnast Simone Biles was 19 years old at the Rio Olympics

How old do you have to be to compete in the Olympics?

The minimum age to compete in the Olympics is loosely:

16 years old.

That is the most often quoted minimum age. But any governing sport federation can designate minimum and maximum limits for their sport. So it is not a hard and fast rule for all sports.
And, while 16 is the age minimum for a gymnast (as set by the International Federation of Gymnastics), you can compete if you are 15 years old during the competition and turning 16 in the calendar year you are competing.

Minimum ages by Olympic sport:

That said, you can be younger to compete in some sports as  the age minimum is set by each sport federation:
Gymnastics: 16 years old
Swimming: No minimum.
Diving: 14 years old
Men’s Soccer: Under 23 years old. Only three players on each team can be older. Each team designates these three players.
Women’s soccer: No age restrictions.
Judo: 15 years old
Track and Field: 16 years old
Equestrian sports: 16 years old is the minimum. There is no maximum age limit to being on the Olympic Equestrian team. Riders in their 70s have debuted at the Olympics and competed successfully.

Gymnast Simone Biles was 19 years old at the Rio Olympics
Gymnast Simone Biles was 19 years old at the Rio Olympics

How old do you have to be to be in the Olympics competing as a gymnast?

You need to be at least 16 years old to compete in Olympic gymnastics. However, there is one minor loophole. If you are not 16 at the time of the games, then you must turn 16 in the calendar year. Until 1981, you could be 14 years old to compete, however that was changed to 15. The minimum age to compete changed again in 1997, when it became age 16.

Athlete ages at the London 2012 Olympics

The average age of athletes at the 2012 Olympics was 26 years old. There were 187 athletes over 40 years old including Hiroshi Hoketsu who at 71 years old competed in dressage for Japan. There were two 65 year-old athletes: Afanasijs Kuzmins (Latvian shooter) and Ian Millar (Canadian equestrian show jumper).
Most of the athletes over age 50 competed in equestrian and shooting events. But female rower, Canadian Lesley Thompson-Willie was 52 years old.

  • Rhythmic gymnastics had an average age of 19 years old.
  • Equestrian events average age was 38.
  • Mountain bike cycling had an average age of 33.
  • Beach volleyball had an average age of 29.
  • There were 33 Olympians aged 15 or under in the 2012 Olympics.
IOC minimum age rules
The International Olympic Committee’s Charter sets out age rules. Click to download full PDF.

Age related facts about the Olympics

  • The youngest person to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics was Gaurika Singh, 13, a swimmer from Nepal.
  • The oldest person to compete at the Rio Olympics was 61 year old Mary Hanna, an equestrian athlete from Australia
  • Gymnast Dimitrios Loundras from Greece is the youngest Olympic competitor ever. He won a bronze medal in Athens in 1896.
  • The oldest Olympian is Oscar Swahn, of Sweden, who was was 72 years old when he competed in the 1920 Olympics in the sport of shooting.
  • The oldest female athlete to compete in the Olympics was British equestrian Lorna Johnstone who competed the 1972 Olympic Games at 70 years old.