Earlier today, in China, two Americans competed in the Olympics semi-finals of the women’s 10m platform diving event. One, Haley Ishimatsu, is 15 years old. Haley finished in 14th place, two spots out of contention for the final round, although she was officially the second diver in reserve for the finals.
What this means is that, according to popular–nay, world opinion as we currently determine it—15-year-old Haley Ishimatsu is the 14th best amateur women’s diver in her event. This also means that 15-year-old Haley Ishimatsu did not get to go on to the finals in her event, the finals of a competition popularly considered as the pinnacle of her sport, a sport to which she has most likely devoted the majority of the waking hours of all of her teenage years.
I repeat: Haley Ishimatsu is 15 years old.
When an AP reporter interviewed Haley after the semi-finals, she visibly teared up. And then she started to cry.
The athlete who had been trained to exhibit grace under pressure continued to answer the questions as they were posed, but the 15-year-old child continued crying on camera.
It can be easy to forget, amid all the discussion of how old or young China’s gymnasts are and how poised Michael Phelps is, that many of the athletes the world is currently watching–and if the Olympics doesn’t typify a world stage, I don’t know what does–are children. Amazingly composed and incredibly well-trained athletes, but children nonetheless.
And when they cry, we should take the spotlight off them for a minute. Haley Ishimatsu is 15 years old, and she’s the 14th best amateur in the world in her event. We’ll see her again. We can afford to give her a minute to herself.
By Liz McKeon