In the club of the chosen ones

TBeing 16 years old and excelling at the highest level of your sport is not within the reach of 99% of athletes. In case of Lamine Yamal, who became the youngest scorer in the history of the Euro Cups on Tuesday (16 years old), is a diamond in the history of sport. But not the only one. Over the last decades, there have been many early stars who later went on to have legendary careers. There were also many who fell by the wayside.

The Lamine case has automatically triggered comparisons with Skinfor many the best footballer of all time, who was world champion in Sweden 1958 with 17 years, scoring six goals in four games. ‘O Rei’ arrived at the Seleçao after shining in the Santoswith which he debuted at 15 years. At 16, he scored 41 goals in 38 games in his first full season as a professional. Before becoming world champion with Brazil, he had already won a Paulista championship with the club of his life.

Another of the totems of world football, Diego Armando Maradonadebuted with Argentinos Juniors at the age of 15 years. The year was 1976. In 1977, the number 10 was already consolidated in his club’s eleven, and he even made his debut with the senior team. Argentinabut César Luis Menotti left him off the selection list for the 1978 World Cupthe first that the Albiceleste conquered.

Around Lamine’s age, however, most of the great stars in football history had barely begun their then glorious careers: Of Stefano I hadn’t even gotten to River, Cruyff debuted with Ajax around 18, Zidane had just arrived in Ligue 1, Cristiano took his first steps in Sporting of Portugal and Messi debuted with him Barça at 17 years and 114 days.


In terms of sports, it is possibly tennis that presents a younger age range among athletes who later went on to have great careers. Jennifer Capriattiwinner of three Grand Slams, made her professional debut at 13 years and played her first final before she was 14. At that age they debuted on the WTA circuit Martina Hingis and Serena Williams. The Swiss won her first Grand Slam (Open Australia) at the age of 16.

On the men’s circuit, there are also examples of very early successes, some fleeting, such as that of MIchael Chang, who won his first (and only) Grand Slam (Roland Garros) at 17 years, a record that is still valid, although he was not able to continue his career in the form of more majors. If he did Matt Wilander, which he won in Paris at the age of 17 years and nine months (half a year older than Chang), the first of his seven majors. As for the Spanish, Rafael Nadal won his first ‘big’ (Roland Garros) at 19 yearsthe same age with which Carlos Alcaraz conquered the US Open. The Spaniard made his professional debut at 15 years, and the Murcian, at 16.


In basketball it is not so common to see stars start their careers so early, especially because the best League in the world, the NBA, is very scrupulous with the training processes of its players, which include going through universities and the draft. Despite everything, there are exceptions. Kobe Bryant He skipped that step (he was the first to do it) and was drafted by the Hornets When I had 17 years. The Lakers acquired his rights after two weeks and the rest is history: five rings with the Los Angeles franchise and 18-time All Star, in addition to two Olympic golds.

With one year less, 16, Luka Doncictoday the top star of the best League in the world, was champion of the Copa Intercontinental with the Real Madridwith which he had already debuted in ACB. I had two less Ricky Rubio before making his debut in the League with youthwho won two years later, at 16, three titles with Penya: Copa del Rey, Copa ULEB and Catalan League.

To find the youngest champion in NBA history, we must travel to 2004. He then got the Serbian ring Darko Milicicto the 18 years, although far from being decisive in the game of his team, the Detroit Pistons. In 2013, he left basketball to dedicate himself to kickboxing.


Gymnastics is also a sport prone to early explosions. The undisputed queen is Nadia ComaneciOlympic gold with the first perfect exercise in the history of the specialty (10) with scarcely 14 years. The Romanian arrived at those Games, those of Montreal 1976after winning three European golds at the age of 13 years.

The great reference of the specialty today, Simone Bileswas two-time world champion in Antwerp to the 16 years. Three years later, at the Olympic Games Río 2016 , won four Olympic golds. In Spain, the case of Patricia Morenowho won Olympic bronze at the age of 16.


Swimming has also been the sporting framework for several early explosions. Michael Phelpsthe greatest swimmer of all time, participated in his first Olympic final (Sidney 2000) to the 15 years, the same age at which he achieved his first world record (200 mariposa).

Also 15 years old, Katie Ledecky achieved in London 2012 the first of his seven Olympic golds. Before, the Hungarian even achieved it Krisztina Egerszegi, who won gold in the 200 meter backstroke, with 14 years, in the Games of Seoul 1988.

In any case, it seems that no one will beat a record that is well over a century old. The Greek Dimitrios Loundras He won bronze in gymnastics at the Olympic Games. Athens 1896the first of the modern era. He was 10 years and 218 days old..


Davide Piano

An experienced journalist with an insatiable curiosity for global affairs on newshubpro

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