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London Olympics 2012: Meet the 14 Youngest Athletes Representing the USA

The U.S. Olympic Committee officially announced this week the 530 members that will compete in London. For the first time in American Olympic history, the team features more female athletes than male. While the team consists of decorated superstars like Michael Phelps, LeBron James and the Williams sisters, several millennials seek their first gold medal in the world’s paramount sports competition.   

Swimming

14) Katie Ledecky, 15. 

Katie Ledecky came in first at this year’s swimming trials, making her Team U.S.A.’s youngest athlete. Entering her sophomore year of high school this fall in Maryland, Ledecky will compete in the 800m freestyle race in London.

13) Lia Neal, 17.

Brooklyn native Lia Neal won fourth place in the 400m free relay at the 2012 swimming trials, beating 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin. Along with being one of the youngest athletes to compete this year, the 17-year-old is the second African-American in U.S. Olympic history to join the swimming team.

12) Missy Franklin, 17.

 

Called a “stud” by 16-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin joins the team as a young, but heavily decorated swimmer. After competing in the 2008 Beijing trials at just 13, Franklin won five medals (three of them gold) at long-course Worlds last, and set a world record in the 200-meter backstroke at the 2011 FINA World Cup.

Gymnastics

11) Gabrielle Douglas, 16.

 

Grinning cheek to cheek in all her routines, Gabrielle Douglas beat teammate and all-around world champion Jordyn Wieber by .10 at this year’s Olympic trials. The 16-year-old from Virginia Beach trains with Liang Chow, coach of 2008 Olympic champion Shawn Johnson. If Douglas wins an individual medal in London, she will be the first African-American woman to reach the Olympic podium since Dominique Dawes of the  “Magnificent Seven.”

10) Jordyn Wieber, 17.

 

Celebrating her 17th birthday this week, reigning all-around world champion Jordyn Wieber competes in what ESPN calls the strongest American women’s gymnastics team since 1996. An individual gold medal favorite for the London Olympics, Wieber competed in the highest level of the Junior Olympics program at age 10. 

9) Samuel Mikulak, 19.

 

Samuel Mikulak, 19, is tied for youngest athelete on the men’s gymnastics team. 2011 NCAA all-around champion Mikulak of Ann Arbor, Mich. came in fifth place on the pommel horse at the Olympic trials despite a sprained ankle. 

8) John Orozco, 19.

 

2012 U.S. Champion John Orozco of the Bronx came in second at the Olympic trials, after close competition from teammate Danell Leyva.

Fencing

7)  Lee Kiefer, 18.

Lee Kiefer, the No. 7 fencer in the world in foil, joins the U.S. Olympic team as another athlete still in high school. According to ESPN, the 18-year-old was the only fencer in 2011 to have individual medals from Senior, Youth and Cadet World Championships. Alexander Massialas, 18, and Race Imboden, 19 also join Kiefer on the fencing team. The two men are the first American fencers to ever win medals at the Paris Foil World Cup.

Boxing

6) Claressa Shields, 17.

With women’s boxing declared a sport for the first time in Olympic history, Claressa Shields, 17, represents Team U.S.A. in the middleweight division. 

5) Jose Ramirez, 19.

 

Also joining the U.S. boxing team is 19-year-old Jose Ramirez, who currently holds 11 national titles and six consecutive U.S.A. Boxing National gold medals.

Equestrian

4) Reed Kessler, 18.

Reed Kessler rides in as the youngest showjumper in U.S. equestrian team history. Competing in a sport against opponents almost triple her age, Kessler came in first the 2012 U.S. Equestrian Federation selection trials.

Table Tennis

1, 2, & 3) Erica Wu, Ariel Hsing, & Lily Zhang, 16.

 

Three 16-year-olds from California make up the women’s table tennis team. Erica Wu and Ariel Hsing beat Canada’s Chris Xu, a 43-year-old Olympic veteran and Chinese National Open winner, at the North American Table Tennis trials in April. Along with teammate Lily Zhang, the three girls won a bronze medal at the 2011 Pan American Games. The U.S. has never won an Olympic medal in table tennis.

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