South African sprinter Luke Davids speaks to olympic.org about how winning the coveted 100m title at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018 can help him achieve his ambitions for the future.
How do you reflect on your experiences at the YOG?
“Buenos Aires, wow. I can't believe it's been two years. I really enjoyed my time there. Besides winning the medal, all of those experiences were brilliant for me. The previous year was the Commonwealth Youth Games, and I was so focused on the competition and I didn’t really enjoy myself. Obviously, it’s an international competition and everyone wants to win, but you still want to enjoy the overall experience. So, I really enjoyed Buenos Aires; the country and the people were great. It was a great Games and, overall, it was a brilliant experience. The winning was great, but so was the overall experience of meeting other people and bonding with them.”
What are some of your favourite memories from the YOG?
“Playing football in the Village, as well as the other games and activities that they had there, and then the food, obviously. But most of all it was fun bonding with athletes from different countries. That was a good experience – besides winning gold, that's the thing I enjoyed the most; meeting people from all over the world and from different sports like football and tennis and golf.”
Looking back now, how does it feel to be the Youth Olympic champion in the 100m?
“Every time I think about it, I still struggle to believe that I was number one and I won the gold because I was just fine with a medal. I wanted to win, but I didn't know I was going to win, so it was actually like an overwhelming feeling of joy. It was just joy; I was full of happiness. I can’t describe it.”
What was it like standing on top of the podium and receiving your medal?
“It was an honour, winning the gold medal in the South African colours and having the country supporting me. I made them proud. So, for me, it was a real honour, and it was a great achievement because I knew I was going home with a positive result for all the people who were rooting for me. I had a lot of support, so to bring the gold medal back to South Africa was a real honour.”
What were you able to learn during the YOG that will help you in the future?
“Mentally, I learnt a lot. This competition helped prepare me for the competitions that are to come. I know what to expect. Even though it's the Youth Olympic Games, I'll know how to handle myself because I've been there before. Athletes can often get stressed, and I have seen it in the call room before races. So, what I’ve learnt is that you should teach yourself how to remain calm under those circumstances, not let yourself get stressed and just be mentally prepared.”
How have things progressed for you since Buenos Aires?
“Earlier this year, in July, I was going to compete in the World Junior Championships, but due to COVID-19 we couldn’t. But the year after Buenos Aires went pretty well for me. I won the South African under-20 title, which was pretty big, and then in the African Under-20 Championships I came third in the 100m and second in the 200m. So, it was really just progressing from Buenos Aires; getting faster and stronger and working on the things that I need to improve. In a sense, Buenos Aires was just the beginning.”
What are your ambitions for the future?
“Like any athlete, my dream and my ambition for the future is definitely, definitely to win at the Olympic Games; that's number one. And then after that to be the world champion. But for this coming season, this is my first year at senior level, so all I would like to do is get a personal best. That's all that I'd like to do for now. That's my goal for this coming season, and to go to run in Europe.”
Do you think your experiences at the YOG will help you if you do manage to compete at the Olympic Games one day?
“Definitely, because personally I feel like I’ve been there already. The only difference is the age groups; that's the way I see it. I feel that competing in Buenos Aires, and having that experience, definitely counts in my favour because for a lot of people going to the Olympic Games, that is their first time, and they don’t know what to expect. I've been there, so I know what it takes. So, I personally feel like the experience from Buenos Aires will definitely help me stay calm in the future.”
The next edition of the YOG will be in Dakar in Senegal in 2026. How significant is that event for Africa as a whole?
“It's great. Personally, I feel that Africa doesn't host competitions like that nearly enough so the fact that it's going to be in Africa is great, and a lot of people across the world will come to visit Africa as a whole and see how brilliant Africa really is overall. Because lots of people I chat to don't believe that Africa is this wonderful place that I describe. I've been all over Africa with different competitions, and it's going to be good for people all across the world to come to Africa and have that experience too.”