A certain young tennis star by the name of Emma Raducanu has captivated the nation over the past couple of weeks, blitzing the competition at Flushing Meadows in New York over the last couple of weeks culminating in a US Open final victory over Leylah Fernandez on Saturday night.
It’s been a whirlwind 2021 for the 18-year-old who initially made headlines for her remarkable performance at Wimbledon, enjoying a fairytale week at the tournament having entered as a qualifier and going on to reach the fourth round.
Her exit from the tournament was the subject of much debate. She retired from her match against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic with breathing difficulties, trailing by one set and 3-0 in the second at the time, before going on to reveal the experience had ‘caught up with’ her. Despite a string of sensational performances from somebody so young and inexperienced, her mental resilience was called into question on social media.
She put the record straight in remarkable style in New York. She became the first British woman in 44 years to win a Grand Slam, and the first player of either sex to win as a qualifier. All without dropping a single set.
She’s undoubtedly cemented herself as tennis’ next superstar. This got us thinking – who else set the world alight in their respective sports as a teenager?
His peak was so staggering, yet so early in his career, that it can be easy to forget just how good a football player Michael Owen was. He burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old with Liverpool, and within the next four years he had earned the feat as the Premier League’s top scorer on two occasions and had become a Ballon d’Or winner in 2001 – the last British player to do so.
It was arguably his exploits for England that most garnered his reputation as a lethal striker. In the 1998 World Cup, barely having left school, his blistering pace saw him evade the defence of old foes Argentina to score one of the most memorable goals in England tournament history.
Regarded as the first global superstar of Rugby Union, Jonah Lomu enjoyed an illustrious career with New Zealand which included 63 caps and 37 tries. In 1994 he made his international debut aged just 19 years and 45 days, the youngest player ever to pull on the All Blacks jersey.
A year later, despite having just two caps, he was part of the squad for the 1995 World Cup, where he took the competition by storm by scoring seven tries on five matches on his country’s journey to the final, where they were beaten by South Africa. He rightly goes down as one of the sport’s all-time greats, inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and the IRM Hall of Fame in 2011.
‘Iron’ Mike Tyson’s career consisted of 26 knockout victories in 28 fights, with 16 of these KOs coming in the first round. His journey as a professional boxer began at the age of 18, and he had 15 pro fights in the first year of his career. He went on to reap the rewards of being this active so early, holding the record for the youngest heavyweight to win a world title, aged just 20 years, four months and 22 days. This set the tone for a ruthless career which earned him the name as the ‘baddest man on the planet’.
Much like Emma Raducanu, Sky Brown is a young sports star we’re still at the outset of the journey with. In this year’s Tokyo games, at the age of just 13, she became the youngest person ever to represent Team GB at the Olympics. This was a huge feat in itself – let alone the bronze medal she went on to achieve in the park event.
She turned professional aged 10, which made her the youngest skateboarder in the world. Her success has seen her become sponsored by Nike, making the youngest Nike-sponsored athlete in the world, featuring in campaigns alongside global stars Serena Williams and Simone Biles.