With 4.000 of the world’s best young athletes set to descend on Buenos Aires for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) this October, we take a look at some of the rising stars who are likely to shine in the Argentinian capital.
From watching Chad le Clos and Carolina Marín in Singapore to Noah Lyles and Fan Zhendong in Nanjing, each edition of the YOG provides a chance for fans to get a first glimpse of the next generation of sporting talent.
Here, we take a look at some of the young athletes who will be looking to follow a similar path as they prepare to star at Buenos Aires 2018…
The host nation will have high hopes for rising tennis star Sebastián Báez. The 17-year-old is currently ranked number 2 in the ITF Junior World Rankings, and earlier this year was the runner-up at the Junior French Open. He is sure to be backed by vociferous support when the tournament gets underway on the clay courts of the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club on 7 October, but a host of leading junior players will stand between him and the YOG gold medal. Among them will be Chinese Taipei’s Tseng Chun-hsin, who beat Báez in the Junior French Open final at Roland Garros and also claimed the junior title at Wimbledon to climb to the top of the ITF Junior World Rankings.
Japan’s Yuka Ueno has made no secret of her ambitions in Buenos Aires. “I hope that I will win the gold medal at the YOG,” she said recently. “It is really a great event, where all the fencers are the best fencers in the world. Clearly, it must be very tough to get the gold medal, but this challenge makes me excited.” The 16-year-old will certainly be well equipped for the challenge; having impressively won foil gold in both the cadet (under-17) and junior (under-20) age groups at April’s Junior World Fencing Championships.
Valentine Munezero and Penelope Musabyimana
Rwanda, beach volleyball
Rwandan beach volleyball duo Valentine Munezero and Penelope Musabyimana qualified for the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 after making it to the final of the African Youth Games earlier this year in Algeria. The duo – who also clinched a historic bronze medal at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas – were undefeated in their group, with victories against Sierra Leone, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya, before beating Morocco in the quarter-final and Egypt in the semi-final. They were eventually beaten by Mozambique in the final, despite winning the first set, but will now look to take on the best in the world in Buenos Aires.
As the current world number 1 in the BWF Junior Rankings, Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn will be among the favourites for men’s singles gold when the badminton tournament gets underway on 7 October. The 17-year-old is already a world junior champion and has won four junior tournaments around the world this year, but he will face stiff competition in Buenos Aires. Among those looking to beat him to gold will be India’s Lakshya Sen, who inflicted a rare defeat on his Thai rival in the final of this year’s Asian Junior Championships in July.
Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha
China, table tennis
The succession of Chinese table tennis talent shows no signs of abating, with Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha the latest young stars to emerge – and both have already been making an impact at senior level. Wang was part of the Chinese men’s team that won gold at the 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships and the 2018 Asian Games, with the 18-year-old also finishing as the runner-up at the ITTF World Tour event in Hungary earlier this year, when he was beaten only by world number 1 – and YOG Nanjing 2014 gold medallist – Fan Zhendong. Sun, meanwhile, has enjoyed even greater success, claiming the 2017 Japan Open title in her first-ever ITTF World Tour event, and climbing to a high of seventh in the senior world rankings. In an ominous warning to their YOG rivals, Wang and Sun also recently teamed up to win the Asian Games mixed title, with the duo set to pair up again in Buenos Aires.
Lucy Li and Akshay Bhatia
The USA will be represented by two of the most promising young golfers in the world when the men’s and women’s events tee off on 9 October. Lucy Li, who will turn 16 a week before the YOG start, was just 11 years old when she became the youngest-ever player to qualify for the US Women’s Open in 2014. Since then, she has won a host of junior events – including the 2016 Junior PGA Championship – and been on the winning US team for the Junior Ryder Cup, Junior Solheim Cup and Curtis Cup. Bhatia, meanwhile, has been making history of his own with a succession of impressive performances, including becoming the first-ever back-to-back winner of the Boys’ Junior PGA Championship. The tall left-hander secured his 2018 PGA title by holing an outlandish 40-foot eagle chip on the final hole, while he also demonstrated his credentials in team play with an unbeaten record at last year’s inaugural Junior Presidents Cup.
Vivek Sagar Prasad
Vivek Sagar Prasad will lead India’s hockey5s team in Buenos Aires, with the 18-year-old being hailed as a future star in his homeland. In January this year, the midfielder became the second youngest player ever to debut for India’s senior men’s team at just 17 years, 10 months and 22 days, and he has already played a key role in two major international tournaments. In April, he was a member of the Indian squad that finished fourth at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, and then in June he scored the equalising goal in the final of the 2018 Champions Trophy, before India were eventually beaten 3-1 on penalties by Australia. Having already shown his skills at elite senior level, all eyes will be on Prasad in Buenos Aires to see if he can deliver a much sought-after medal for hockey-mad India.
Javelin thrower Yuleixi Angulo starred at July’s South American U18 Championships in Cuenca, Ecuador, as she claimed gold with a new South American record of 54.33m. Having also finished eighth at the U18 World Championships in Nairobi last year, and making the final of the 2018 World U20 Championships in Finland, the 17-year-old has already proved her credentials on the international stage, and will surely be one to watch when the women’s javelin begins on 13 October.
Terence Saramandif will become the first athlete to represent Mauritius in canoeing at the YOG when he competes this October. The 16-year-old earned his place in Buenos Aires with an impressive performance at the qualifying event in Barcelona earlier this year, where he finished third in his specialty slalom event. A semi-finalist at the 2018 World Junior Canoe Slalom Championships, Saramandif also claimed gold at July’s African Youth Games in Algeria, and will now be looking to add another medal to his collection in Argentina.
Kaylee McKeown will be looking to follow the example of fellow Australian swimmers Emma McKeon and Kyle Chalmers, who each went on to enjoy medal success at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 after starring at the YOG in 2010 and 2014 respectively. McKeown – whose older sister Taylor won a silver medal in the pool at Rio 2016 – made her senior World Championships debut in Budapest last year and finished fourth in the 200m backstroke, setting a new junior world record in the process, before helping Australia win silver in the mixed 4x100m medley relay. She also shone at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, finishing fourth in both the 100m and 200m backstroke events to cement herself as a potential star of Buenos Aires 2018.
Hungary, 3x3 basketball
Hungary’s rising basketball star Orsolya Toth became a social media sensation after starring at last year’s FIBA 3x3 U18 Europe Cup in Debrecen. The 17-year-old topped the scoring charts as she led Hungary to gold on home soil and was then named the tournament’s MVP (most valuable player); but it was when FIBA posted a video of her highlights online that she became a viral internet star. The mixtape showcased Toth’s wide range of skills and earned her thousands of new followers on social media. Now, she will be aiming to win legions of new fans by leading her team to YOG gold in Buenos Aires.
Great Britain, windsurfing
British windsurfing sensation Islay Watson claimed gold at the Youth Sailing World Championships in July this year, and is now hoping to add a YOG medal to her collection in Buenos Aires. "Because I won the Youth World Championships this year, I think I will have a bit of a target on my back,” said the 17-year-old recently. “But the Youth Olympic Games are the icing on the cake and I couldn't have asked for a better way to round off the year.” In addition to her world title in the RS:X class, Watson also won bronze in the Techno 293 Plus European Championships in April – the class that will be contested at the YOG.