YOG graduates grab attention in April
Several former Youth Olympic Games athletes made their mark on the international sporting stage in April. Here, Olympic.org looks at some of the highlights…
The Norwegian – who finished fourth in the men’s individual event at the YOG Nanjing 2014 – rose to number one in the World Amateur Golf Rankings following his low-amateur finish at April’s prestigious Masters Tournament. The 21-year-old finished in a tie for 32nd at the year’s first Major championship, 10 strokes behind winner Tiger Woods, whose dramatic victory sealed a once-unimaginable 15th Major title and capped a remarkable comeback from injury and personal issues. Hovland had earned his place in the field at the renowned Augusta National golf course in Georgia (USA) after winning the US Amateur title in 2018, and will now look to following up his impressive Major debut with appearances at June’s US Open and July’s Open Championship, while continuing to play for the Oklahoma State University golf team.
After winning bronze in the all-around at last year’s World Championships, Russian gymnast Nikita Nagornyy continues to impress on the senior stage, clinching two gold medals at the recent European Championships in Szczecin, Poland. The 22-year-old – who starred at the YOG Nanjing 2014, winning five medals, including three golds – topped the podium in the all-around and parallel bars, as he continues his preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Fellow YOG graduate Ellie Downie (GBR) also made the podium in Szczecin, winning all-around silver and bronze in the vault.
YOG Innsbruck 2012 figure skating gold medallist Elizaveta Tuktamysheva helped Russia to bronze in the ISU World Team Trophy, held in Fukuoka, Japan, from 11 to 14 April. The 22-year-old, who was crowned world champion in 2015, topped the standings in the ladies’ singles as Russia’s skaters finished third behind Japan – led by YOG champion Shoma Uno – and champions the USA.
Salwa Eid Naser
YOG and World Championship silver medallist Salwa Eid Naser showed some impressive early-season form as she clinched four gold medals at the Asian Athletics Championships, held in Doha, Qatar, from 21 to 24 April. The 20-year-old won her favoured 400m in 51.34 seconds before running a personal best and Championship record 22.74 seconds to also triumph in the 200m. She then teamed up with her Bahraini compatriots to clinch the women’s 4x400m relay and the mixed 4x400m relay titles. Naser will now be hoping to return to the podium again at the Khalifa International Stadium, when Doha hosts the World Athletics Championships in September this year.
The YOG silver medallist added the Asian badminton title to her growing list of accomplishments, as she triumphed at the Continental Championships held in Wuhan, China, from 23-28 April. The 21-year-old beat Nanjing 2014 bronze medallist He Bingjiao in the final to claim her first Asian crown, having finished second two years earlier. Yamaguchi, who also won bronze at the World Championships in 2018, is now sure to be among the main medal contenders for hosts Japan at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Argentinian swimmer captured the hearts of Olympic fans at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, when she burst into tears on the podium and dedicated her 800m silver medal to her grandmother, who had passed away just a week earlier. Fast forward six months, and now Pignatiello has become the first Argentinian athlete to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, having claimed the 1,500m national title in a Games-qualifying time of 16:13.98. The 19-year-old, who finished sixth in the 800m as a 16-year-old at the 2016 World Championships, will now head to the Japanese capital next year as a genuine medal hope for Argentina.
The Swedish golfer – who won mixed team gold at the YOG Nanjing 2014 – made her first appearance in a Major championship as a professional at April’s ANA Inspiration tournament in California (USA). A hugely impressive three-under-par 69 helped her into a tie for second after the opening round, but a 76 the following day saw her title challenge fade. Subsequent rounds of 72 and 71 lifted her into a tie for 26th, 10 strokes behind winner Ko Jin-young (KOR). The result is sure to give 22-year-old Ström confidence as she embarks on her first season on the LPGA Tour, following a superb amateur career that included a US national college title with Arizona State University and the Pac-12 Conference individual title.
European Weightlifting Championships
There was a series of notable performances by former YOG athletes at April’s European Weightlifting Championships, which were held in Batumi, Georgia. Nanjing 2014 gold medallists Bozhidar Andreev (BUL), Hakob Mkrtchyan (ARM) and Simon Martirosyan (ARM) claimed world titles in the -73kg, -89kg and -109kg categories respectively, while YOG bronze medallist Rebeka Koha was crowned world champion in the women’s -59kg event.