While new stars were born in Buenos Aires, several former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes were busy making their mark on the global sporting stage with a series of top-level performances. Here, we take a look at some of the YOG graduates who have excelled over the past month…
Japanese freestyle wrestler Mayu Mukaida – the women’s 52kg gold medallist at the YOG Nanjing 2014 – recently clinched her second world title at the 2018 World Wrestling Championships in Budapest (Hungary). The 21-year-old, who won her first world title in 2016, beat Zalina Sidakova of Belarus in the gold medal bout to seal the 55kg crown. It proved to be a sweet victory for Mukaida, who had lost to Sidakova’s compatriot Vanesa Kaladzinskaya at the 2017 World Championships, when she had to settle for silver. Now, Mukaida will well and truly have her eyes set on gold on home soil at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Russia’s Nikita Nagornyy was the most decorated male artistic gymnast at the YOG Nanjing 2014, winning three gold medals, one silver and one bronze. And he has continued to add to his collection since moving to the senior ranks, including with two medals at the recent Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Doha (Qatar). The 21-year-old thought he had done enough on the high bar to clinch gold for Russia in the team event in the Qatari capital, but a slight handstand error handed victory to China by just 0.049 points – the closest margin in Olympic or World Championship team events since the new scoring system was introduced in 2006. The Rio 2016 team silver medallist managed to bounce back from that disappointment, however, to win bronze in the individual all-around – his first global individual medal.
YOG Singapore 2010 bronze medallist Petra Olli’s progress on the global stage took a giant leap as she won gold at the 2018 World Wrestling Championships in Budapest. The 24-year-old Finn was a silver medallist at the 2015 World Championships and won European titles in 2016 and 2018, but her victory in the Hungarian capital – where she defeated Canada’s Danielle Lappage 6-5 in the women’s 65kg freestyle final – has given her a first global crown.
Chinese table tennis star Fan Zhendong – a two-time gold medallist at the YOG Nanjing 2014 – showed once again why he is the current men’s world no.1 with victory at the ITTF World Tour Swedish Open. The 21-year-old followed October’s ITTF World Cup victory in Paris (France) with another title in Stockholm, where he beat compatriot and no.2 seed Xu Xin 4-1 in the final. In doing so, Fan reversed last year’s result between the same two finalists. Since that defeat, the double YOG champion has lost just once in singles events on the international stage – against triple Olympic gold medallist Ma Long at the 2018 ITTF World Tour China Open in Shenzhen.
Hungary’s Tímea Babos capped off a memorable 2018 tennis season by winning the doubles title at the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore. The 25-year-old – who won women’s doubles bronze at the YOG Singapore 2010 – partnered France’s Kristina Mladenovic at the year-ending championship, with the duo also claiming the 2018 Australian Open crown earlier in the year, giving them their first Grand Slam title together. They also made it to the final of the US Open together, eventually losing to Ashleigh Barty and CoCo Vandeweghe, whom they beat in the semi-finals en route to the WTA Tour title.