Old enough to go for the gold

February 1

It takes years of dedication to make it to the Olympics. But some athletes get there faster than others. Gold medal swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky made their Olympic debuts at age 15. So did gold medal figure skater Tara Lipinski.

The 2014 U.S. Winter Olympics team has some teen phenoms. The youngest member of the team is freestyle skier Maggie Voisin. She turned 15 on December 14. Three other athletes on the freestyle team are Julia Krass, 16, and 18-year-olds Torin Yater-Wallace and Mac Bohonnon. Maybe the freestylers are young because only kids would be daring enough to try all those stunts and tricks.

Two-thirds of the women’s figure skating team are teenagers. Gracie Gold, 18, and Polina Edmunds, 15, will compete in their first Winter Games.

Tucker West, 18, is the youngest member of the American luge team. Speedskater Emery Lehman is only 17, but he hopes for a top 10 finish — or better — in the grueling 10,000-meter race. Arielle Gold, 17, and Ty Walker, 16, have risen quickly from the junior to senior snowboarding circuit. The two will compete in women’s halfpipe and slopestyle, respectively.

But the American teen with the best chance to medal is slalom skier Mikaela Shiffrin. The 18-year-old has won six international slalom races, so she’s the favorite.

Whether she medals or not, there’s a good chance Shiffrin is just starting her Olympic career in Sochi.

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