Olympic.org picks out some of the most impressive performances from former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes in recent weeks, as the YOG continue to provide a springboard to the global sporting stage.
Just a week after winning slopestyle gold at the Winter YOG Lausanne 2020, Estonia’s freestyle skiing sensation Kelly Sildaru was back on top of a podium – this time at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado (USA). In fact, the 17-year-old topped the podium twice in Aspen – first clinching the superpipe title and then successfully defending her slopestyle crown to secure her fourth X Games gold in the event.
Norwegian ski jumper Marius Lindvik secured the biggest results of his blossoming career as he finished second at the prestigious Four Hills Tournament at the start of January. After a disappointing 10th-place finish in Oberstdorf (Germany), the 21-year-old soared to impressive victories in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany) and Innsbruck (Austria) before a third place in Bischofshofen (Austria) saw him finish the tournament in second place overall, as Poland’s Dawid Kubacki claimed the title. Lindvik, who won the silver medal in the normal hill event at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016, had never previously won a FIS World Cup event, with his best result being third place at Klingenthal (Germany) in December last year.
Slovakian ski racer Petra Vlhová started 2020 in style as she ended Mikaela Shiffrin’s year-long winning streak in the slalom to clinch victory in the women’s World Cup in Zagreb (Croatia). The 24-year-old, who in January 2019 dealt Shiffrin her last slalom defeat in Flachau (Austria), beat her US rival by 1.31 seconds to secure her 11th World Cup victory. Vlhová, the slalom gold medallist at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012, then went on to clinch her 12th and 13th World Cup victories in Flachau (slalom) and Sestriere (giant slalom, tied with Italy’s Federica Brignone) to cap an incredible start to the year.
Norway’s Birk Ruud won the first FIS World Cup slopestyle event in Seiser Alm (Italy) on 18 January, with the 19-year-old beating Fabian Boesch (SUI) and Colby Stevenson (USA) to top the podium. Ruud, who won slopestyle gold at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016, put together a scorching second run to earn a score of 92.91 and claim his first career slopestyle World Cup victory.
Olympic champion David Gleirscher celebrated his maiden Luge World Cup victory in Altenberg (Germany) in January, almost two years after clinching a surprise gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The 25-year-old Austrian – who competed at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012 – finished ahead of Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller in second and Germany’s two-time Olympic champion Felix Loch in third. Kristers Aparjods of Latvia, the gold medallist at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016, finished in fourth place. The following week, Gleirscher topped the podium again – this time at the 2020 European Luge Championships, where he won gold in the mixed team event alongside Lillehammer 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 bronze medallist Madeleine Egle and doubles pair Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller.
Olympic silver medallist Jacqueline Lölling from Germany continued her excellent 2019/20 Skeleton World Cup campaign with victory in Igls (Austria) on 17 January. Runs of 53.82 and 53.62 seconds saw the 24-year-old finish just 0.02s ahead of Austria’s Janine Flock, giving the 2012 YOG champion a second win of the season. Lölling then followed up her Igls victory with second-place finishes in Königssee (Germany) and St Moritz (Switzerland) to consolidate her position at the top of the overall World Cup standings.
Olympic silver medallist Hwang Dae-heon was crowned the overall men’s champion at the inaugural Four Continents Short Track Speed Skating Championships, which were held in Montreal (Canada) from 11-12 January. The 20-year-old swept to victory in all four events, topping the podium in the 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m before teaming up with Korean compatriots Lee June-seo, Park Ji-won and Kim Da-gyeom to win the 5,000m relay. Hwang – a two-time world champion in the 500m – previously won silver in the 500m at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 and gold in the 1,000m at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016.
Hungary’s YOG bronze medallist Tímea Babos and France’s Kristina Mladenovic won their third Grand Slam title as a doubles pairing, as they triumphed at January’s Australian Open. The No.2 seeds needed just 72 minutes to record a dominant 6-2, 6-1 victory over top seeds Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-wei in the women's doubles final. Babos, who won doubles bronze at the YOG Singapore 2010, and Mladenovic won 10 of the final 11 games of the match to secure their second Australian Open title in three years, having previously won in Melbourne in 2018 and finished as runners-up last year. The duo also clinched the 2019 French Open title together.
Rising tennis star Karen Khachanov helped his Russian team to fourth place in the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia. The 23-year-old – who won doubles silver alongside Andrey Rublev at the YOG Nanjing 2014 – enjoyed group stage victories over Italy’s Stefano Travaglia, the USA’s Taylor Fritz and Norway’s Viktor Durasovic as Russia cruised through to the knockout stages. Khachanov then overcame Guido Pella in the quarter-finals as Russia beat Argentina to progress to the last-four, where he fell to Dušan Lajović as Serbia secured a 3-0 victory before going on to beat Spain in the final.