The inspirational performances of the 227 former Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes in PyeongChang showed how their experiences at Innsbruck 2012 and Lillehammer 2016 have helped them shine at the Olympic Winter Games.
From the moment the Republic of Korea’s Lim Hyojun thrilled the home crowd in the men’s 1,500m short track speed skating on the first full day of competition – winning the host nation’s first gold of the Games – former YOG athletes were a regular sight on the PyeongChang podium.
Andreas Wellinger (GER) and David Gleirscher (AUT) quickly followed in Lim’s footsteps, topping the podium on day one in ski jumping and the luge respectively. And by the time Chloe Kim (USA) became the youngest-ever female snowboarder to win gold on day four, YOG athletes had already surpassed the total number of gold medals won by their compatriots at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.
Wellinger and Gleirscher both went on to add to their tallies, the German finishing the Games as the most decorated YOG athlete with a gold and two silvers to his name. But it was at the Gangneung Ice Arena where YOG athletes enjoyed the most success. Lim followed up his opening day triumph with third place in the men’s 500m, while Suzanne Schulting (NED) scored a stunning victory in the women’s 1,000m short track final to finish the Games with two medals.
After winning three medals at Sochi 2014, Shim Sukhee took her Olympic haul to four with gold for the host nation in the women’s short track 3,000m relay, Liu Shaoang helped Hungary win a first-ever Winter Olympic gold in the men’s short track 5,000m relay, while Hwang Daeheon (KOR) and Xu Hongzhi (CHN) also graced the podium.
Further YOG success at the Gangneung Ice Arena came in speed skating, where the Republic of Korea’s Kim Min Seok, a two-time YOG champion in Lillehammer, was a dual medallist, and in figure skating, as Japanese star Shoma Uno finished second to compatriot Yuzuru Hanyu in a memorable men’s figure skating competition.
In all, 23 YOG athletes – 11 men, 12 women, representing 13 different National Olympic Committees (NOCs) – won 29 medals in PyeongChang (seven gold, 11 silver, 11 bronze) in 12 disciplines.
Leading by example
It wasn’t just the YOG athletes who shone on the biggest stage; several YOG Ambassadors rose to the occasion too. Korean figure skating icon Yuna Kim, an ambassador at Lillehammer 2016, opened the Games in majestic fashion, gliding across an ice rink at the top of the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium to light the cauldron.
On the field of play, fellow Lillehammer ambassadors – Norwegian duo Kjetil Jansrud and Silje Norendal – also delivered stunning performances. Jansrud bagged a silver and bronze to take his overall Olympic Alpine skiing medal haul to five, while his compatriot just missed out on the podium, finishing fourth in the slopestyle and sixth in the big air event.
And US superstar Lindsey Vonn, a YOG Ambassador for Innsbruck 2012, Lillehammer 2016 and Lausanne 2020, signed off her Olympic career in style with bronze in her trademark event – the downhill.
By the numbers
1 athlete from Eritrea – Shannon-Ogbani Abeda – who became his country’s first-ever Winter Olympian when he took part in the giant slalom.
2 ice hockey players – Lee Yeon Jeong and Eom Suyeon – completed their #YOGjourney from Innsbruck 2012 and Lillehammer 2016 to be part of the unified Korean team in PyeongChang.
3 Wells brothers – Byron, Beau-James and Jackson – represented New Zealand, in the ski slopestyle and halfpipe. The latter two had previously competed in Innsbruck and Lillehammer respectively.
12 YOG athletes carried the flag for their NOCs at the Opening Ceremony.
51 NOCs represented by YOG athletes.
227 YOG graduates (129 men, 98 women) competed in PyeongChang. Of these, 128 athletes had taken part in Innsbruck and 99 in Lillehammer.
100,000th male athlete to compete in the Olympic Games. US ski jumper Casey Larson – who participated at Lillehammer 2016 – reached the historic milestone when he competed in qualifying on the day before the Opening Ceremony. “It’s pretty cool, something I can tell people about,” he said on being told the news.
They said it
“Usually I put wheels on my sleigh and train on a road, because we have no snow and no track. We have to pass the cars but I have a friend who will watch for us to make sure [it is safe].”
Lien Te-An reveals the challenges of luge training in Chinese Taipei.
“We didn’t room together – it would be too much. We bicker over everything. We said that we didn’t want to share and everyone else said, ‘That’s a good idea’. They obviously know us!”
British freestyle skier Katie Summerhayes explains why she and her sister Molly chose to stay in separate rooms in the Olympic Village.
“Oh no, no, no. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, no’.”
Kenya’s Sabrina Simader recalls her reaction when she first tried skiing.
“It’s great to beat them; sucks to lose to them.”
Will Rhoads describes his relationship with his fellow US ski jumpers.
“We haven’t regained consciousness yet but I think soon we will realise what we accomplished.”
Anastasia Sedova (OAR) is taking time to come to terms with her cross-country skiing bronze medal in the 4x5km relay.