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08 Mar 2019
Olympic News, YOG, Women in Sport

Relive five of the most stunning performances by female YOG athletes

Leading the way to mark the annual celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March, looks back at five of the most stunning performances by female athletes at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG).

Six of the best

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Chinese swimmer Tang Yi was nursing a troublesome wisdom tooth when she arrived at the inaugural YOG Singapore 2010, but the teenager battled through the pain to emerge as the most successful athlete at the Games with a remarkable six gold medals.

The 17-year-old began her gold rush on the opening day of action in the Singapore Sports School natatorium with victory in the mixed 4 x 100m freestyle relay and, two days later, claimed the women’s individual 100m freestyle title. On day five, Yi won both the 200m freestyle and 4 x 100m freestyle relay finals and, on the last day, she was crowned 50m freestyle and mixed 4 x 100m medley relay champion.

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Her golden haul was just two short of Michael Phelps’ fabled Olympic record of eight for a single Games edition, set in Beijing in 2008, but Yi confessed that no one was more surprised than her after her exploits. “I wasn’t certain that I could win gold,” she said. “I just set out to do the best I could. The atmosphere was electric. It fired everyone to do their absolute best.”

Fast learner
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Franziska Preuss had been competing in biathlon for only two years when she was selected to represent Germany at the inaugural Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012. Her parents had encouraged her to take up the sport at the age of 15, and Preuss proved to be a natural.

The teenager swept almost all before her in Austria with gold in the sprint in the Seefeld Arena and was also crowned champion in the mixed relay and cross-country mixed relay. Only a superb performance from Russia’s Uliana Kaysheva in the pursuit, edging Preuss into second, denied her a quartet of gold medals, but she was still the most prolific athlete at the YOG.

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“I learned a lot in Innsbruck, like how to win over a big crowd and how to manage the media,” she said. “I decided after that to really push myself because in my mind the Olympic Games are a constant focus.”

Groundbreaking triumph

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History was made at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012 when female athletes competed in an Olympic ski jump event for the first time, and it was Japan’s Sara Takanashi who wrote her name into the record books with victory in the women’s competition. The 15-year-old claimed gold with a leap of 76.5 metres.

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Fourteen female athletes from 14 different countries took part in the historic event in Austria. Germany’s Katharina Althaus took the silver medal while Urša Bogataj from Slovenia finished third.

Record breaker

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To claim six gold medals at a single Olympic Games edition is a remarkable feat. To set three world records in the process, however, is truly spectacular and exactly what incredible Chinese swimmer Shen Duo achieved at the YOG Nanjing 2014.

The all-conquering teenager won individual gold in the finals of the 100m and 200m freestyle, the former in a junior world record time of 53.84 seconds. She also helped set new junior world records as China won the mixed 4 x 100m freestyle relay and 4 x 100m medley relay, and completed her staggering haul with victory in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay and mixed 4 x 100m medley relay.

In recognition of her achievements, Duo was asked to make a speech on behalf of all the YOG athletes at the Closing Ceremony. “I vow to become an ambassador for sport and the Olympic values,” she said, “and a true champion on and off the field of play.”

Family affair

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Dutch speed skater Sanneke de Neeling was the undisputed star of the women’s competition at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012, claiming two gold medals and one silver in the Olympia Eisschnellaufbahn.

De Neeling was just 15 when she took to the ice in Austria, taking the 3,000m and mass start titles, as well as silver in the 1,500m. It was a rare success for a European athlete in a competition otherwise dominated by Japanese and South Korean skaters.

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Her victory in Innsbruck was witnessed by her octogenarian grandfather, the man who had inspired her love for the sport. “My granddad is here,” she said. “I was six when he took me to the rink for the first time. I made my first run there and I liked it so much that I decided to go on.”

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