Australia not only has a habit of producing sporting champions, but we are extremely effective as producing them at a very young age!
Kyle Chalmers stamped himself as Australia’s newest sporting hero with his incredible victory in the 100 metres freestyle at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and he joins the long list of Aussie athletes to have success on the world stage before graduating from high school.
At the start of the year, Kyle Chalmers was considered unlikely to qualify for an individual swim at the 2016 Olympics – let alone come home with the gold medal.
In each of his three swims in Rio, Chalmers was seventh at the halfway mark and then produced some Chautauqaua-esque closing sectionals to get himself to the wall in front of his opposition.
Chalmers still has plenty of improvement in front of him and amazingly this was his first 100 metres freestyle victory since his school swimming carnival.
Chalmers is the youngest Australian Olympic Gold Medal since arguably are greatest sporting prodigy ever – Ian Thorpe.
Thorpe first came to prominence at the 1998 World Championships in Perth when he won the 400 metres freestyle at just 14 years of age and at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney he won the same event before leading Australia to victory in both the 4x100m and 4x200m relay – all before he was even legally able to have a drink!
Leisel Jones was the first Australian swimmer to compete at four Olympic Games and she was even younger than Thorpe at the 2000 Olympics.
Jones qualified for the Australian team at just 14 years of age and she stunned the world at the Olympics to finish second in the 100 metres breaststroke behind American Megan Quann.
Jones finished her Olympic career with nine medals – equal with Thorpe and more than any other Australian female Olympian.
Lleyton Hewitt hung around for so long that it is sometimes easy to forget that he entered the limelight as a child.
Hewitt made his professional tennis debut in 1998 at just 16 years of age and he beat Andre Agassi and Jason Stoltenberg to win the Adelaide International – the third youngest tournament winner in ATP history.
By the time he turned 21, Hewitt had already won a Grand Slam and was the best tennis player in the world!
Nathan Cleary has only just started his NRL career, but he has taken the competition by storm!
Cleary – the son of legend Ivan Cleary – does not turn 19 until November, but he has added a professionalism to a Panthers outfit that has lacked just that in recent seasons and he has a very experienced head on his shoulders.
It is scary to think how good Cleary could be with a season of NRL under his belt!
Pat Cummins has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, but there is no doubt that the fast-bowler was a genuine cricket prodigy.
Cummins was selected to play for Australia at test match level against South Africa in 2011 at just 18 years of age after playing just three first-class cricket games.
The selector’s risky decision was rewarded when Cummins took seven wickets and was named man of the match, but injuries have meant that he has not played another test match since.
James O’Connor has been a target of criticism in recent years, but at one point he was the golden boy of Australian Rugby Union.
O’Connor was already well-known in Rugby Union circles after starring for Nudgee College in high school and he became the young Super Rugby player ever when he debuted at 17 before he became the second youngest Wallaby in history at 18.
He has been out of the Wallabies picture for a couple of seasons now, but at 26 he still has plenty of years ahead of him.
Tim Watson is now one of the most respected figures in Australian Rules Football and it is often forgotten that he started his career before he even left high-school.
Watson made his VFL debut for Essendon when he was just 15 years old and he played for the Bombers from 1977 until he retired in 1994 – after taking a season off while a member of the West Coast Eagles in 1993.
Harry Kewell is one of the best footballers that Australia has ever produced and he was offered a contract with English Premier League side Leeds at just 15 years of age.
Kewell was a star for the Leeds Youth team and he made his first team debut at just 17 – quickly becoming one of the most talented young players in the EPL.
Kewell was named PFA Young Player Of The Year in 2000 and after leaving Leeds he was courted by the biggest clubs in the world before he ended up signing with Liverpool.
Australia has produced a couple of basketball prodigies in recent years, but it is Ben Simmons that has the potential to develop into our greatest ever baller.
Simmons joined the Australian Institute Of Sport program at just 15 years of age and by the time he was 16 he was already being touted as potential number 1 draft pick in the NBA.
After an up and down College career, Simmons was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the first pick at the 2016 NBA Draft and he already starred for the 76ers at the 2016 NBA Summer League!