A great comeback, a solo display of strength, and a final get-together performance impress Athlete Role Model Ron Darmon (ISR).
Olympic triathlete Ron Darmon (ISR) saw the future of his beloved sport in the young athletes who battled throughout three gruelling days of competition at the Buenos Aires 2018 YOG - and he was proud. “It’s been great fun, I’ve loved the competitions here,” said Darmon, an Athlete Role Model at BA2018. “The athletes were all super talented and so much stronger than when I was at their age.”
The individual men’s event gold medallist, Dylan McCullough (NZL), impressed not only Darmon, but all the spectators who gathered along the course on Monday 8 October at the Bosques de Palermo.
The Kiwi triathlete came off the swim alongside Italy’s Alessio Crociani, but then pushed past him to lead throughout the cycling section. McCullough turned on the speed in the running portion and crossed the finish line 12 seconds ahead of Portugal’s Alexandre Montez, who secured the silver.
Bronze medallist Crociani, who finished 18 seconds behind the winner, acknowledged McCullough’s great feat and unmatched strength: “I knew he was the best in the world on the bike.”
One of the biggest surprises - if not grandest displays of pure class - during the competition was the astonishing comeback of Amber Schlebusch (RSA), who after a poor start managed to overtake all her rivals in the last stage to win gold.
Schlebusch, a former swimmer, came out of the water 27 seconds behind the leaders, lagging in seventh position. But the 17-year-old South African never gave up, pushing hard during the running race.
“I was a swimmer before triathlon and it’s funny the swim now is my worst (segment),” Schlebusch said.
“It was a bad swim but then I caught up in the run. I'm really, really happy to end up feeling really strong.”
At Rio 2016, Darmon became the first triathlete to represent Israel in an Olympic Games, but he was forced to retire after an accident a year later. He was particularly impressed by the mixed relay event in Buenos Aires, in which teams are formed with athletes from different countries.
“I think that the team relay event is more exciting and more intense than the individual one because it’s shorter,” said Darmon. “The athletes can push themselves further and are all giving 110%. It’s a real competition, not just a game.”
The winning team, Europe 1, comprised four medallists from the individual events. Together they won gold, thanks to bonding through teamwork. “I guess friendship between athletes from different countries can make things better,” said Alexandre Montez (POR) after having added a mixed team event gold to his individual men’s silver.
Women’s silver medallist Sif Madsen Bendix (DEN), also a team member on Europe 1, was glad to get to know new people and form friendships. “Together we were stronger,” she said.
The Youth Olympic triathletes enjoyed the special format of the team relay mixed event because it added a particular flavour of companionship, usually not present at traditional triathlon races.
“It’s a great chance to meet and get to know other people from other countries who usually we don’t have the opportunity to speak to,” said bronze medallist Igor Bellido Mikhailova (ESP), whose teammates were from Germany and France. “Because ours is basically an individual sport, there’s no time to make good friends from other teams.
“But today it was a very nice way to make good friends. That’s what the Oympics should also be about.”