The stars of Buenos Aires 2018
They have won medal after medal. They have led the way in new disciplines, some of which will appear on the Olympic programme at Tokyo 2020. And they have thrilled the large crowds that have filled every arena. They are the stars of the third Summer Youth Olympic Games, staged for the first time and with great success in South America.
The most prominent heroes of the latest edition of the Summer Youth Olympic Games, held in the Argentinian capital, were the local fans. They packed the stands at every venue, created a wonderful atmosphere and deafening noise, and were hailed by all the young athletes, who were pleasantly amazed to receive their wholehearted support, regardless of which part of the world they hailed from. The success of South America’s first YOG belongs to them, and also to the army of volunteers who ensured the competitions all ran smoothly.
In the sporting arena itself, the young athletes showed that they have rich promise and bright futures ahead of them when they embark on their careers at the very highest level, which some of them have already reached. Shining bright among them was Japan’s Takeru Kitazono, who lit up the men’s artistic gymnastic competitions and won no fewer than five gold medals to announce himself as the heir to the throne of Kohei Uchimura, regarded as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. “I am definitely planning to be at Tokyo 2020 and to achieve the same level of performance. I am going to step up my training with that goal in mind,” said the Japanese phenomenon, who celebrates his 16th birthday on 21 October.
Russia’s leading swimmers also showed an appetite for gold medals. Six each went to Kliment Kolesnikov, who won every individual men’s backstroke event, and team-mate Andrei Minakov, who was in a class of his own in the butterfly races and also won the 100m freestyle. The duo also won all the men’s and mixed relay events with their Russian team-mates, all of them, that is, except the mixed 4x100m medley relay, in which they finished second to China.
Also turning in a series of dominant performances was the Chinese diver Shan Lin, who claimed every gold available to her: the women’s 3m springboard, the women’s 10m platform and the mixed international team competition with Colombia’s Daniel Restrepo. And what of Italian equestrian athlete Giacomo Casadei, who got the most out of his mount Darna Z, allocated to him in the pre-competition draw? He did not incur a single fault in contesting two rounds and a jump-off as Europe 1 collected silver in the jumping international team competition and in contesting another two rounds and a jump-off in winning jumping individual gold.
Who could forget the extraordinary goalscoring feats of Portuguese futsal sensation Ana Sofia Gonçalves, better known as Fifó? She scored 21 goals in all in the women’s competition, including all four of her side’s goals as they beat Japan in the final. Egypt’s young modern pentathletes were also on top of their game: Salma Abdelmaksoud and Ahmed Elgendy respectively won the women’s and men’s individual titles, with Elgendy then joining forces with China’s Yewen Gu to land the mixed international team relay gold.
The heroes of Buenos Aires 2018 also include the Argentinian athletes who brought the home fans to their feet by winning gold. Among them were the men’s rugby sevens and basketball 3x3 teams and the women's hockey5s and beach handball; Maria Sol Ordas, who won the host nation’s first gold medal of Buenos Aires 2018 in the women’s single sculls (rowing); and the cape-wearing superhero Fausto Ruesga, who defied gravity and gave free rein to his imagination in taking the men’s dunk contest honours.
The events of the future
The last group of heroes of the first gender-equal YOG, which saw the same number of male and female athletes take part and a very large number of mixed competitions, are the athletes who led the way for the sports and disciplines that will make their first appearance at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (among them basketball 3x3, karate, sport climbing and BMX freestyle), and the disciplines of the future, which enjoyed such spectacular success at their Buenos Aires testing ground.
Breaking, the urban, hip hop offshoot of dance sports, set pulses racing in the Argentinian capital over four enthralling days of competition, which saw B-Girl Ram of Japan win the women’s event as well as the mixed event and Russia’s B-Boy Bumblebee the men’s.
The future also looks bright for futsal, kiteboarding, beach handball, acrobatic gymnastics, roller speed skating, and hockey5s. In terms of events, it also promises much for the exciting, all new gymnastics multidiscipline team and badminton relay team competitions.
The Buenos Aires 2018 programme brought glory to a large number of mixed teams, many of them made up of athletes from different countries. They all had fun. They all made friends. They all enjoyed this new way of winning medals. And they all gave a glimpse of the future; while mixed-NOC events are a unique feature of the YOG, mixed-gender events are now set to become an integral part of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games programmes.