5 sporting teenage prodigies in recent years as Luke Littler reaches final

Luke Littler became the youngest player ever to reach the final of the World Darts Championship when he defeated Rob Cross on Tuesday.

The 16-year-old now has a shot at claiming an historic place in the sport as he takes aim at the title at Alexandra Palace.

Here, we look at some of sport’s other teenage prodigies in recent years.

Though his breakthrough moment undoubtedly came when he scored past David Seaman from 30 yards in October 2002 to end champions Arsenal’s 30-game unbeaten Premier League run, Rooney had actually made his senior Everton debut two months earlier against Tottenham, setting up a goal for Mark Pembridge in a 2-2 draw.

England’s Euro 2004 opener against France in Portugal shot him to international stardom before he signed for Manchester United later that summer, going on to become all-time top scorer for both United (253) and for England (53), though his international tally has since been surpassed by Harry Kane.

Ronnie O’Sullivan – 17

O’Sullivan became the youngest-ever winner of a ranking event when, aged 17, he beat Stephen Hendry to claim the 1993 UK Snooker Championship. Two years later, he was victorious in the 1995 Masters to add another record to his CV by the age of 19, both accolades that he still holds.

Victory in the 2022 Snooker World Championship was his eighth, drawing him level with Hendry for most wins, as he has lived up to the excitement that accompanied his arrival onto the scene more than 30 years ago to become one of the sport’s all-time greats.

The skateboarder became the UK’s youngest-ever Olympian when she competed at the Tokyo games aged just 13 and followed it up by becoming the country’s youngest medal winner when she took bronze in the women’s park skateboarding event.

She has continued to set records in the years since, most recently by becoming the first British winner at the skateboarding World Championships in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates in February 2023.

Fabregas became Arsenal’s youngest-ever player when he made his first-team debut in a League Cup tie against Rotherham at Highbury in September 2003 and clocked another club record when he scored his first goal in the next round in a 5-1 win over Wolves.

It was the following season though that his true breakthrough arrived, taking up a regular place in the team’s midfield aged 17 at the start of the 2003/04 season as they sought to defend the title won the previous campaign. He went on to win two league titles with Chelsea as well as the 2010 World Cup and two European Championships with Spain.

Gianluigi Donnarumma – 16

AC Milan were in the midst of their decade-long barren spell when Donnarumma was thrust into the first team at the age of 16 in 2015, preferred to the veteran club legend Christian Abbiati and former number one Diego Lopez.

Standing at a height of 6ft 5in, he took up the mantel of first-choice goalkeeper with a stature that defied his young years, and the following year became Italy’s second-youngest ever goalkeeper when he made his international debut in a friendly against France. He has since helped the team to win Euro 2020 where he saved two penalties in the final shootout against England.