Top 5 Shortest Olympians

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If you close your eyes and visualize “notable Olympic athletes,” who comes to mind? Michael Phelps? Usain Bolt? Kobe Bryant? Maybe you went old school, and conjured up Muhammad Ali, Bruce Jenner or Gabrielle Reese. At an average height of 6 feet 4 inches tall, these giants of the Olympic universe share little more than the Olympic moniker with the podium-hopefuls on our list. It just goes to show that you don’t have to wear a size 13 shoe to leave an impression of Olympic proportions on the world.

5 Lester Lane

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When we say, “short basketball players,” do we say, “oxymoron?” Late Olympian and 5-foot-10-inch tall Lester Lane would probably disagree, that is, if his own shot clock hadn’t already expired. The 1960 Rome Summer Olympics were the first to be fully covered on television, so viewers watched Lane and the American men’s basketball team win gold that year.

4 Tara Lipinski

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In Nagano, Japan, at the 1998 Winter Olympics, Tara Lipinski, one of the competition’s youngest and shortest figure skaters took the ice, and took the gold from then-favorite Michelle Kwan, who is two years her senior and four inches taller. A skateless Lipinski stands 4 feet 10 inches tall, but there’s nothing short about her skating ability. Capable of exploding from a dead stop and completely dominating the ice, little Lipinski made a big name for herself in ’98.

3 Mary Lou Retton

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The bronze medal goes to America’s sweetheart, retired American gymnast Mary Lou Retton. The pixie Bela Karolyi prodigy captivated the world in 1984 when she earned a perfect score of 10 on the vault in the women’s all-around. Retton’s 4 foot 8 inch frame graced the podium five times in 1984, earning gold, silver and bronze medals.

2 Tuau Lapua Lapua

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Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia, sets the tiny Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu—just 10 square miles, shore-to-shore. Hailing from that tiny island is a relatively tiny Olympic weightlifter named Tuau Lapua Lapua. On the Olympic scale, weightlifters average 5 feet 5 inches tall, yet Tuau stretches the tape at only 4 feet 7 inches tall. Although he was skunked at the podium, he was the silver medalist as the second shortest athlete in the London games.

1 Asuka Teramoto

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At just 4 feet 6 inches tall, 17-year-old Japanese gymnast Asuka Teramoto—the shortest athlete in the 2012 Olympic games—competed on the world’s stage in the women’s individual all-around, yet she’s hardly tall enough to ride Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland. She didn’t reach the podium that year, but if medals were given for being tiny, she would have won gold as the shortest competitor in the games.

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