Passing the baton: Ambassador Kim yields stage at Sochi summit, as YOG graduate Sotnikova comes of age
Two years ago, in Innsbruck, figure skater Adelina Sotnikova, then just 15, gave the world a glimpse of her precocious talents, serving up an audacious triple toe-triple toe combination followed by a perfectly executed triple lutz, as she pirouetted her way to silver at the first ever Youth Olympic Games (YOG).
On hand in Austria to encourage the Russian teenager and her fellow “YOGgies” was Yuna Kim, undisputed queen of the ice, reigning world and Olympic champion, and a model and inspiration for all prospective Olympians, on the rink and beyond it.
The Korean, who herself broke onto the world stage as a 15-year-old back in 2005, had been an obvious choice to serve as a YOG Ambassador, not just because of her peerless performances on the ice but for her embodiment of the Olympic values off it. And she had travelled to Innsbruck 2012 to share her experience and offer advice to the young athletes.
Two years later in Sochi, the Korean sorceress cast her spell for the final time, delivering a typically mesmerising display in both short and free programmes.
However, it was the young apprentice Sotnikova, who came of age, taking the Olympic crown after delivering the most challenging routine in the free programme to outscore the defending champion by more than five points.
Queen Kim will be sorely missed, of course, for her grace on the ice and her dignity off it… but in Sotnikova women’s figure skating has a new ice princess, who at 17, will be confident she can extend her reign in PyeongChang 2018 and perhaps beyond; in turn, perhaps more importantly, she has the chance to follow Kim’s lead, by inspiring future generations to greatness.
It is not the first time a YOG Ambassador has yielded their Olympic crown to one of the athletes they helped inspire at the Youth Olympic Games. At London 2012, legendary US swimmer Michael Phelps – who holds all-time Olympic medal record - had to part company with one of his titles, the 200m butterfly, to YOG graduate, Chad Le Clos.
Phelps had been on hand at the inaugural YOG in Singapore in 2010, when the South African, then just 17, won five medals. Le Clos has since followed in the footsteps of his hero Phelps, by declaring his intention to take up the ambassadorial baton and will be present at the next YOG in Nanjing in 2014 to help counsel and inspire a new generation of Olympic hopefuls.