By Wornie Reed, Ph.D.
In the past few days, young athletes have been turning the sports world upside down, doing remarkable things, all the while performing like veterans. On top of that, they tend to proceed as if it’s no big deal.
First is the 15-year-old tennis prodigy, Cori “Coco” Gauff. Coco, an African-American high school student, is the youngest female to ever qualify for Wimbledon. Relatively unknown, she was invited to participate in the qualifying tournament where she won three matches to make it into the main draw at Wimbledon, the biggest stage in tennis.
In the first round of the Wimbledon tournament, Coco faced her idol, Venus Williams, who had won two Wimbledon Championships and two U.S. Open Championships before Coco was born. She beat Venus to set the tennis world abuzz. She was victorious in her second match, and because of the enormous demand, her third-round match was on Center Court, usually reserved for the biggest stars.
That match, against 28-year-old Polona Hercog, was a three-set come from behind victory causing one British tabloid to declare “Coco-mania” had taken over the All England Club. Shout-outs from celebrities poured in. This victory placed her in the final 16 where she faced —and lost to — the top-ranked player still in the tournament, Simona Halep.
The next sensational teen last week was Yealimi Noh, the 17-year-old Korean American. She won the Monday qualifying tournament, entered the LPGA Thorneberry Creek tournament and promptly shot an amazing 63, a tie for the second lowest round.
At the end of two rounds, Noh was one stroke behind and paired with Sung Hyun Park, the number one ranked female player in the world. Unfazed, she continued her brilliant play. At the end of the tournament, she had tied Park for sixth place, quite a start in her first LPGA contest.
These kinds of things do not happen routinely. It is not unusual to have a super-talented young athlete burst on the scene occasionally, but not several young athletes across three sports in the same week. That is unusual.
All this comes after a spring when 19-year-old Zion Williamson, a gifted and polished basketball player, was taken first in the NBA draft and is expected to be an all-star his first year. Youth have been coming all along, but this is a near stampede.