With more and more former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) stars enjoying success on the global sporting stage, their achievements are increasingly helping to motivate the next generation of YOG athletes. As olympic.org discovers, many of those competing at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 took inspiration from those who had starred at previous editions of the YOG…
Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh won gold in the women’s high jump in Buenos Aires, soaring to the YOG title by jumping a new personal best of 1.95m in stage two of the competition. And in winning gold she was able to emulate the achievement of her compatriot and idol, Yuliya Levchenko, who won the YOG title at Nanjing 2014 and has since gone on to claim silver at the 2017 IAAF World Championships.
“I am really inspired by Yuliya; she is my hero really,” said Mahuchikh after clinching gold. “She is so beautiful and a very good high jumper.”
Mahuchikh was even able to call on her hero for advice and guidance, with Levchenko attending the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 as a Young Change-Maker with the Ukrainian team.
“She has been supporting me and we have talked together quite a lot because she knows what this is like,” revealed Mahuchikh. "I feel very excited and so happy to win the gold medal like she did.”
When Keely Small carried the Australian flag into the Buenos Aires 2018 Opening Ceremony, she was following in the footsteps of her cousin, Alpine skier Greta Small, who was the country’s flagbearer at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012. Keely went on to win gold in the 800m, and revealed that she hopes to continue emulating her cousin, who used her YOG experiences as a springboard to compete at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018. “It’s pretty cool that we were both flagbearers and we’re from the same family,” said Keely in Buenos Aires. “I’ve definitely been inspired by her, just by being around her and hearing about all her experiences. The Olympic Games are a massive goal of mine and hopefully I can make it to Tokyo 2020. The YOG can be a massive stepping-stone towards that, getting the experience of what it’s like to compete with an Olympic atmosphere. I really think I can take a lot from this experience and hopefully make that Tokyo 2020 team.”
Shortly after clinching gold in the women’s recurve event in Buenos Aires, Chinese archer Zhang Mengyao revealed that she had sought the advice of a previous YOG champion in the build-up to the YOG.
The 16-year-old was able to chat to compatriot Li Jiaman, who won gold in the same event at the YOG Nanjing 2014, with Zhang revealing that her advice played a key role in her own YOG victory.
“I went to see her before I came to Buenos Aires,” said Zhang. “She shared her experience with me, and this helped me here. She told me a little bit about herself and about what it means to compete in such a special atmosphere as this. I’d like to thank her for that.”
Ukraine’s Mykhaylo Kokhan nailed two throws in excess of 85 metres to clinch gold in the men’s hammer throw in Buenos Aires, and then explained how he had taken inspiration from compatriot Hlib Piskunov, who had won the same event at the YOG Nanjing 2014.
“Before I came here, he motivated me to show the world what we, the Ukrainian throwers, are made of,” revealed Piskunov. “It was a very good competition to put an end to a long season.”
China’s Sun Yingsha had already made a huge impact on the international table tennis circuit, having won the 2017 Japan Open title in her first-ever ITTF World Tour event and climbed to a high of seventh in the senior world rankings. But there was little chance of the 18-year-old missing out on the chance to compete in Buenos Aires, having caught a glimpse of the YOG experience during Nanjing 2014.
“I watched the Youth Olympic Games Nanjing 2014,” revealed Sun. “I was inspired by those Games even though I was already a table tennis player. And now I know what it feels like to be part of this experience.”
Zambia’s men’s hockey5s team enjoyed a thrilling run to the semi-finals of Buenos Aires 2018, capturing the imagination of thousands of YOG fans. And according to captain Joseph Mubanga, much of their success could be attributed to what they learned from coach Samuel Tagwireyi, who was able to pass on his own experiences from competing at the YOG Nanjing 2014, when Zambia reached the quarter-finals.
“That’s one of the most important things that has made us perform well in this tournament,” said Mubanga. “[Samuel] looked at the mistakes that Zambia made in 2014, and made sure that we worked on those things in training and implemented them on the pitch. Age doesn’t matter; the most important thing is the respect he gives to us, and the respect we show him.”