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Former YOG stars end 2018 in style

11 Jan 2019
Olympic News
As the sporting year came to an end in December, a host of former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes were busy demonstrating their talents at some of the biggest events in their sports.

Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final

The culmination of the 2018/19 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series saw a host of former YOG skaters take to the ice in Vancouver (Canada), with both Shoma Uno (Japan) and Cha Jun-hwan (Republic of Korea) making the podium in the men’s event. Uno, the YOG silver medallist at Innsbruck 2012, won silver behind reigning world champion Nathan Chen (USA), while Cha – who placed fifth at Lillehammer 2016 – finished third to secure the best result of his senior career so far.

In the women’s event, Innsbruck 2012 gold medallist Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (Russia) secured bronze behind Rika Kihira (Japan) and Alina Zagitova (Russia), while Kaori Sakamoto (Japan), who placed sixth at Lillehammer 2016, finished fourth.

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FINA World Swimming Championships (25m)

Held in Hangzhou (China), from 11 to 16 December, the 2018 FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) featured an array of eye-catching performances from former YOG stars. Among the most impressive were those by 18-year-old Kliment Kolesnikov. Fresh from winning six gold medals and one silver at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 in October, the 50m backstroke world record-holder made a similar splash at the short-course World Championships, winning individual gold in the 100m medley as well as a further six relay medals. His tally of seven medals was matched by Russian team-mate and fellow YOG graduate Evgeny Rylov. The three-time YOG gold medallist topped the podium in the 50m and 200m backstroke events and also won a gold, two silvers and two bronzes in the relays.

Among the other former YOG athletes to impress in China were Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk, who won gold in the 1,500m freestyle, and South Africa’s Chad le Clos, who won gold in the 100m butterfly, silver in the 50m and 200m butterfly and bronze in the 100m freestyle.

Former Olympic and YOG champion Rūta Meilutytė (Lithuania) also won silver in the women’s 50m breaststroke, while Brazil’s three-time YOG medallist Matheus Santana won bronze medals in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x50m medley relays.

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BWF World Tour Finals

The final tournament of the 2018 BWF World Tour brought together the leading players from the year-long circuit in Guangzhou (China), from 12 to 16 December.

The men’s singles included YOG Nanjing 2014 champion Shi Yuqi, of China, and bronze medallist Anthony Ginting, of Indonesia. Yuqi, who was runner-up at the BWF World Championships earlier in 2018, managed to end the year in style by clinching the men’s title with a 21-12, 21-11 victory over Japan’s Kento Momota in the final, having beaten Ginting in the group stage.

The women’s singles was also due to have a distinctly YOG flavour, but Nanjing 2014 gold medallist He Bingjiao (China) and Carolina Marín (Spain), the Rio 2016 Olympic champion who also competed at Singapore 2010, were both forced to withdraw prior to the tournament due to injury. Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi, who won silver at Nanjing 2014, was still able to compete – losing to compatriot and eventual runner-up Nozomi Okuhara in the semi-finals.

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World Taekwondo Grand Slam

The second edition of the World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series, which took place from 12 to 16 December in Wuxi (China), featured the world’s top 16 taekwondo athletes for each of the eight Olympic weight categories, including the previous year’s Grand Slam champions and the gold medallists from each of the five Grand Prix events in 2018.

In the women’s -49kg event, Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, but the Nanjing 2014 champion and Rio 2016 bronze medallist convincingly overcame the Republic of Korea’s Min-Ah Ha 2-0 to clinch the title.

Meanwhile, Singapore 2010 gold medallist and double Olympic champion Jade Jones, of Great Britain, secured silver following a narrow 2-1 defeat to Lijun Zhou of China in the women’s -57kg final.

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ITTF World Tour Grand Finals

Featuring the leading players from the 2018 ITTF World Tour, the 23rd edition of the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals was held in Incheon (Republic of Korea) from 13 to 16 December.

Prior to the tournament, double YOG gold medallist Fan Zhendong was named ITTF Male Table Tennis Star for 2018, having enjoyed a superb year that saw him rise to top spot in the world rankings, win two gold medals at the Asian Games and triumph as part of the Chinese team at the World Team Championships. Fan was also the defending champion in Incheon, having captured the men’s singles title at the 2017 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, and met some familiar YOG faces as he set about his title defence.

In the opening round, the 21-year-old faced the Singapore 2010 singles champion Koki Niwa, of Japan, with Fan triumphing 11-6, 11-8, 11-5, 12-10. He was then drawn against fellow Nanjing 2014 graduate Hugo Calderano, of Brazil, in the quarter-finals. While Fan was the clear favourite to progress, Calderano refused to let the world No. 1 settle into his game, with the Brazilian eventually securing a surprise 4-2 victory (11-6, 12-10, 4-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9).

The 22-year-old’s win over Fan proved to be the Nanjing 2014 bronze medallist’s high point, however, as he fell 4-0 (11-7, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5) to eventual champion Tomokazu Harimoto, of Japan, in the semi-finals.

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