Argentine’s high-flying dunk tricks win over judges and home crowd, while Mathilde Peyregne’s (FRA) sharp shooting earns top honours.
Argentina’s Fausto Ruesga insists he did not get his inspiration from USA basketball star Dwight Howard when he donned his country’s flag as a cape for the final rounds of the dunk contest, earning the adoration of fans and judges in his flight to gold.
“No, it was mostly improvised,” said the 18-year-old of his superhero antics on Monday at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games. After all, Ruesga was a mere boy 10 years ago when USA pro Howard dressed in a Superman outfit at the 2008 National Basketball Association Slam Dunk Contest.
“I had thought of three or four dunks before coming to the tournament, but I thought up most of them in the moment with the help of my teammates and we could do the dunks that luckily were the ones that won the tournament,” he said.
Among the most notable in the contest was Ruesga’s dunk over three of his teammates including Sofia Acevedo (ARG), bronze medallist in the women’s shoot-out contest earlier in the day. The three lined up facing the basket while Ruesga jumped spread-eagle over their heads.
The showman also dunked over a moving bin of basketballs, and in another sailed over a young boy from the crowd who lay on a stretcher supported by Ruesga’s teammates.
“It was just creativity - we tried to include people who were in the audience. My teammates and I thought about including someone and we saw the stretcher and said, ‘Two people holding the stretcher - we get someone from the public to give it a different feel’, and luckily it worked out well.”
Ruesga won by a judges’ decision in an extra round after he and silver medallist Nikita Remizov (RUS) were tied at 81 points after three rounds. Niccolo Filoni (ITA) won bronze.
“(Dunking) is like a hobby for me,” said Remizov, 18. “I like to hang on the rim. It boosts me a lot. As a kid I saw how my brother did it, and he often hung on the rim after a basket, so maybe it came from when I was a kid.”
In the women’s shoot-out, from top of the arc, Mathilde Peyregne (FRA) took top honours with nine points in 49.4 seconds over Katerina Galickova (CZE), who had eight points in 43.6 seconds.
“It was incredible - I couldn’t believe it,” said Peyregne, 18. “I specifically have been practising my shots for this. I’m so happy to be here, it’s fantastic - not only (Buenos Aires) but the atmosphere and the competition.”
Argentine Acevedo said she was more anxious to be part of Ruesga’s dunk trick than she was for her own contest, where she qualified first and finished third with eight points in 48.1 seconds.
“I felt (worried) that he’d run into me,” she said. “The three of us were very nervous, but (Argentina) got gold for a reason.”