The first month of the new year saw a series of former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes make headlines as they continued to make significant progress in their respective senior sporting ranks.
European Short Track Championships
Hungarian speed skater and YOG graduate Shaoang Liu claimed two gold medals and a bronze in January at the European Short Track Championships in Dordrecht (Netherlands) to enhance his growing reputation as one of the sport’s brightest young talents. The 20-year-old took bronze in the 1,000m at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016 and was in dominant form in 2019 with victory in the 500m in Holland, relegating older brother Sándor Liu Shaolin into second place. Liu also secured third in the 3,000m Super Final before teaming up with his sibling to triumph in the 5,000m relay in Dordrecht.
The brothers had been part of the Hungarian quartet that made history at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 when they won gold in the men’s 5,000m relay in a new Games-record time, their country’s first-ever Winter Olympic title.
There was further success for other YOG alumni in Dordrecht with Suzanne Schulting, another Lillehammer 2016 athlete, winning the women’s 1,000m race as well as bronze in the 3,000m relay.
Winter X Games
The 18th edition of the Winter X Games in Aspen (USA) from 24 to 27 January saw American Hailey Langland claim slopestyle silver three years after she competed at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016. The 18-year-old represented the USA in the half-pipe and slopestyle events in Norway and, after competing at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018, continued her promising form with second place in Aspen.
It was the third medal of Langland’s Winter X Games career after her slopestyle bronze in 2016 and gold in the big air event the following year.
Hungary’s c reached the seventh Grand Slam final of her career at the Australian Open in January but was ultimately frustrated in her defence of her women’s doubles title at Melbourne Park (Australia). The 25-year-old won her first Grand Slam title in 2018 in Australia with French partner Kristina Mladenovic and, although the pair fought their way through to the final again 12 months later, they were beaten in straight sets by Australian Samantha Stosur and China’s Zhang Shuai.
Babos signalled her potential at the inaugural YOG Singapore 2010 when she secured bronze in the women’s doubles with Belgian An-Sophie Mestach. In the same year, she won the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open girl’s doubles titles and turned professional the following year.
In July 2018, she reached number one in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings, the first-ever female Hungarian player to attain top spot in either the singles or doubles standings.
World Luge Championships
Austrian duo Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller secured the first medals of their senior careers, seven years after competing at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012, claiming silver and two bronzes at the International Luge Federation World Championships in Winterberg (Germany).
The 24-year-olds represented Austria in the men’s doubles in Innsbruck and also won bronze as half of a mixed National Olympic Committee quartet in their home Games.
Steu and Koller reprised their partnership at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, finishing fourth in the men’s doubles, and ended their wait for medals in January in Winterberg with three podium finishes.
European Speed Skating Championships
YOG graduate Henrik Fagerli Rukke was one of three Norwegian medallists at the European Speed Skating Championships in Collalbo (Italy) after he finished third in the men’s 500m sprint at the Ritten Arena. Rukke competed in the 500m, 1,500m and mass start races at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012. He was also a member of the Norwegian team that won the men’s International Skating Union Speed Skating World Cup sprint title in 2017-18.
The younger brother of fellow international skater Christoffer Fagerli Rukke, the 22-year-old claimed bronze in Collalbo behind Dutchmen Sven Kramer and Patrick Roest.