The fourth and final day of the judo competition at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 was given over to the mixed team event, where male and female judokas from different countries and continents shared a whole new experience in their careers, one designed to promote gender equality.
The 13 teams in the competition took the names of Olympic host cities, with Beijing emerging victorious, though this is an event where friendship, excellence and respect matter more than the colour of any medals.
In stepping up to collect their golds, Artsiom Kolasau (Belarus), Li Ling Liu (Chinese Taipei), Jaykhunbek Nazarov (Uzbekistan), Carlos Paez (Venezuela), Itzel Pecha (Mexico), Ana Viktorija Puljiz (Croatia) and Veronica Toniolo (Italy) shared a warm embrace at the top of the podium.
There were no national flags flying at the Youth Olympic Park’s Asia Pavilion, which was filled with a spirit of togetherness as the athletes came together with the aim of getting to know each other, sharing their experiences, and doing their very best to help one another.
“I made friends with everyone in the team,” said Toniolo afterwards. “And we’ll carry on being friends, even if we compete against each other in the future. This was my first mixed competition and it was a wonderful experience because there are no differences here.”
Echoing those views, Paez said: “I’m proud to win a team medal. I made a lot of friends and it’s going to be weird if I have to compete against them one day. It was great to share with athletes of the opposite sex because we all helped each other.”
“Winning the gold is amazing, especially because of the Olympic spirit that exists at these Games,” said Puljiz. “It’s amazing because you get to know new people, new cultures and make new friends. Being in a team also helps you grow as a person.”
The silver medal went to the Athens team, while Rio de Janeiro and London shared the bronze.
The first Youth Olympic Games to be held outside Asia – after Singapore 2010 and Nanjing 2014 – Buenos Aires 2018 will go down in history as the first gender-equal Olympic Games, with the same number of male and female athletes competing and a record number of mixed events on the programme.