YOG graduates to the fore in February
The second month of 2019 saw a host of former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes amass an impressive haul of World Championship and continental medals, further enhancing the YOG’s reputation as a springboard to success in the senior ranks.
FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships
American snowboarder Chloe Kim continued her incredible dominance in the women’s halfpipe with victory at the recent World Championships in Utah (USA), three years after she was crowned champion at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016.
The 18-year-old was also victorious in the slopestyle event in Norway in 2016 and, since her YOG achievements at the Hafjell Freepark, the Californian teenager has claimed two Winter X Games titles (taking her career total in the competition to five), as well as winning halfpipe gold at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. At the age of 17, she made history in South Korea as the youngest-ever female snowboarding medallist. She is also the first athlete to win the coveted treble of Olympic, World Championship and Winter X Games titles.
Elsewhere in Utah, Kim’s compatriot and fellow YOG alumnus Aaron Blunck was in equally irresistible form, claiming gold in the men’s freestyle skiing halfpipe. Blunck won halfpipe bronze at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012 and also represented the USA at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.
FIS Alpine World Ski Championships
One of the undisputed stars of the slopes at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012, Marco Schwarz won three gold medals on home soil, and the Austrian added to his collection in February with three more podium finishes at the Alpine World Ski Championships in Åre (Sweden).
Schwarz was the giant slalom and super combined champion in Innsbruck, as well as claiming gold in the parallel mixed team event. He went on to record his first top-three World Cup finish in December 2015 and won silver for Austria in the mixed team race at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
In Sweden, the 23-year-old was again a silver medallist in the mixed team event and secured individual bronze in the slalom. He also finished third in the Alpine combined behind second-placed Štefan Hadalin from Slovenia, another YOG graduate from 2012.
In the women’s competition, Petra Vlhová was another triple medallist in Åre, seven years after the Slovak had signalled her potential with YOG gold in the slalom in Innsbruck. Vlhová struck gold again at the World Championships in Sweden in the giant slalom. Six days earlier, she claimed silver in the combined event, while on the penultimate day of action she secured bronze in the slalom.
ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships
Former YOG star Shoma Uno produced a stellar performance at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, staged in Anaheim (California), winning gold in the men’s competition courtesy of a new world record for his performance in the free skate.
The 21-year-old Japanese was down in fourth in the standings after the short programme but roared to victory after posting a score of 197.36 in the free skate, eclipsing the previous record of 190.43 set by compatriot Yuzuru Hanyu in Helsinki (Finland) in 2018.
Uno was just 14 when he announced himself on the international stage with a silver medal at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012. He was also part of the mixed National Olympic Committee quartet, along with American Jordan Bauth and Belarusian duo Eugenia Tkachenka and Yuri Hulitski, which took gold in the team event.
Kazakhstan skater Elizabet Tursynbayeva – a bronze medallist at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016 – ensured it was a double success in California for YOG alumni after the 19-year-old claimed silver in the women’s competition. Her second-place finish in Anaheim prevented a Japanese clean sweep of the podium places and relegated Kaori Sakamoto, a fellow YOG veteran from Lillehammer, into fourth.
FIL European Luge Championships
Aparjods was his country’s flagbearer for the Opening Ceremony of the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016 and made a lasting impression in Norway when he claimed gold in the luge singles event. In 2017, he was crowned champion at the World Junior Championships in Sigulda (Latvia).
His third-place finish in Oberhof was his first taste of success in the sport’s senior ranks.