Day 8 of London 2012 and things got off to a flying start for our young athletes as Dominican sprinter, world junior champion and Singapore 2010 gold medallist Luguelin Santos comfortably won his heat and secured his place in the 400m semi-finals. He ran against South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, who came second and made history by becoming the first double-amputee to compete at the Olympic Games. “I know Oscar was the star of the race,” Santos said “and it felt great to run alongside my heroes.”
There was more to come on the track as Austria’s Ivona Dadic performed solidly in the second day of the heptathlon (long jump, javelin and 800m) to finish 25th overall. “It’s a beautiful feeling to be here,” she said “it’s a great competition, I got three personal bests and I’m very excited.” She wasn’t the only YOG athlete to set a personal best, with Nooa Takooa (Kiribati), Tilak Ram Tharu (Nepal) and Rodman Teltull (Palau) all doing so in the men’s 100m preliminaries.
Over at the North Greenwich Arena, 19-year-old Savannah Vinsant leapt into the history books as she became the first American to make the women’s trampoline final. “It’s absolutely amazing! I can’t do anything but smile.” The youngest competitor scored a solid 54.965 in the final round to bounce into sixth place. But the stunned look on her face said it all: “I didn’t even expect to be in the top eight (of qualifications),” she said “overall I just wanted to do twenty skills but making the finals was even better and I was very pleased with all three performances.”
For the Youth Olympic Games star, her first Olympic Games is one she’s never going to forget: “To go out there and see the USA flag is just amazing,” and she credits her experience in Singapore for helping her go that extra mile. “The Youth Olympic Games helped me in this process because I kind of knew what to expect, but here it’s much bigger, there’s a bigger crowd and a lot more pressure.” And this is just the beginning for the budding psychology student who has big plans to medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. “This is just another step in my career, I plan to be at the 2016 Olympics, and so I have four years to perfect everything and medal then.”
Yesterday wasn’t only about the YOG athletes however; three legendary YOG Ambassadors also took to the stage to show our young athletes how it’s done. USA swimmer Michael Phelps ended his illustrious career with a win in the 4x100m medley relay – his 18th Olympic gold medal. He was also presented with a trophy declaring him ‘the Greatest Olympian of All Time’, a fitting tribute to him for inspiring a generation of swimmers, including new golden boy and YOG star Chad le Clos. “It’s kind of weird looking at this and seeing ‘Greatest Olympian of All Time,’ ” Phelps said, adding: “I finished my career the way I wanted to. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Back at the Olympic Stadium, both Russia’s Yelena Isinbaeva and Jamaica’s Usain Bolt finished top of their heats in the pole vault and 100m respectively and we looked forward to seeing them in action again today to defend their Olympic titles.