Life
Raymond Doherty 5 Jul 2019 10:19am

Six of the best: sporting prodigies

American 15-year-old tennis player Coco Gauff made global headlines this week and won the hearts of Wimbledon by beating former champion Venus Williams on Centre Court in the first round. She followed this up with an assured second-round victory over Magdalena Rybarikova

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Caption: Following Coco Gauff's recent triumphs in tennis, we highlight some other sporting youngsters

With the Gauff hype train at full speed, we have decided to look at some other sporting youngsters who shot from being relatively unknown to the wider public, to exploding onto the global stage.

Boris Becker

The fiery red-haired German wasn’t old enough to buy a pint in a London pub but that didn’t stop him from coming out of nowhere to win the city’s most famous tennis tournament in 1985. An up-and-comer before that year’s SW19, but certainly not considered a contender, young Becker dispatched American heavyweights John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors en route to victory.

Sachin Tendulkar

Picked for the Indian national team at the age of 16, the diminutive batsman played a record 200 Test matches for India in a legendary cricket career that lasted 24 years. Tendulkar made 51 Test hundreds and 49 centuries in one-day internationals. Finishing as the leading run-getter in international cricket – with 34,357 runs across formats – he played his final match and his 200th Test an impressive 15 years after his debut in November 2013.

Simone Biles

The young American took the 2016 Olympics by storm when she swept all before her and took home four Gold medals. Her technical brilliance and bubbly personality won over millions watching around the world. Biles, who was 19 at the time, had already won 10 World Championship medals since 2013. Between her performances at the Olympics and World Championships she has won 19 medals, making her the most decorated American gymnast of all time.

Bobby Fischer

At 15 Fischer became the youngest-ever chess grandmaster in history. He went on to become what some consider the greatest the chess player of all time. Aged 29, he became World Chess Champion in 1972 after beating Boris Spassky in their famous contest in Reykjavik, in what was dubbed the The Match Of The Century.

Kobe Bryant

Before the NBA made it mandatory for its players to attend at least one year of college before entering its league, they were allowed to declare for the draft immediately after high school. In 1996 a 17-year-old Bryant signed for his dream team, the LA Lakers. Much-hyped, he struggled in his first couple of seasons but went on to dominate the league – picking up five championships for the Lakers, an MVP award, and numerous scoring records along the way.

Wayne Rooney

While known in football circles since his early teens, the young Scouser announced himself on the world stage at Euro 2004. After a group stage in which he scored a few goals and was the clearly the team’s best player, the 18-year-old Everton striker had England dreaming of a first international tournament victory in 40 years. Unfortunately a metatarsal injury in the quarterfinal put paid to that.