The third month of 2019 was a spectacular one for former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes as they made their mark at elite level with another huge haul of medals, a new world record and a piece of skating history.
World Short Track Speed Skating Championships
The undisputed standout YOG alumnus in March was the Republic of Korea’s Lim Hyo-jun, after the 22-year-old claimed a remarkable five gold medals at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Sofia (Bulgaria).
Hyo-jun was the men’s 1,000m champion and 500m silver medallist at the inaugural Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012, and he underlined his meteoric rise by adding five more titles to his burgeoning CV in Bulgaria, winning the overall category as well as the 1,000m, 1,500m, 3,000m and 5,000m relay races.
The South Korean achieved his quintet of World Championship triumphs just over a year after he had claimed gold at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 in the 1,500m, in an Olympic record time.
His dominance was hard on compatriot and fellow YOG competitor Hwang Dae-heon, who won gold in the 500m and 5,000m relay in Sofia, as well as silver in the overall category and 1,000m, but found his own considerable achievements eclipsed by his countryman. Dae-heon won gold in the men’s 1,000m at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016.
There was more success for male YOG graduates at the Championships when Xu Hongzhi took silver with the Chinese quartet in the 5,000m relay. The 22-year-old finished third in the 1,000m in Innsbruck seven years ago.
In the women’s competition, Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands built on her impressive performances at PyeongChang 2018, winning gold in the 1,000m and 3,000m. Schulting competed in the 500m, 1,500m and mass start races at Innsbruck 2012.
Biathlon World Championships
There were three medals for veterans of the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012 at the Biathlon World Championships held in Östersund (Sweden) from 6 to 17 March. All three athletes had raced in the girls’ 6km in Austria seven years ago.
It was silver in Sweden for Lisa Vittozzi of Italy in the women’s individual 15km, while home favourite Linn Persson also took second place in the women’s 4x6km relay as part of the Swedish quartet. The same race also yielded a bronze medal for Ukraine’s Anastasiya Merkushyna.
Bruce Lehane Invitational
History was made in early March at the Bruce Lehane Invitational in Boston (USA) when Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha set a new world indoor record for the mile in a landmark time of three minutes, 47.1 seconds.
The young African rose to prominence when he won gold in the 3,000m at the YOG Nanjing 2014 and wrote his name into the record books in America in March when he shaved 1.44 seconds of the previous best for the distance set by Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj in 1997. Since his YOG exploits, the 21-year-old Ethiopian has also claimed two world indoor 3,000m titles.
International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Championships
The 25-year-old competed in the two-man bob with compatriot Elvis Kamss at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012 and, since his Austrian exploits, he has claimed bronze in the two-man bob at the 2017 European Championships in Winterberg (Germany) and silver in the four-man bob two years later in Königssee (Germany) at the same competition.
European Athletics Indoor Championships
The 35th edition of the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow (Scotland) proved a happy hunting ground for YOG graduates.
Poland’s Ewa Swoboda, who competed at the YOG Nanjing 2014, was one of the trio of new European champions after coming home first in the women’s 60m.
The 21-year-old won silver over the same distance at the 2017 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade (Serbia), but went one better in Scotland.
The women’s high jump saw Ukrainian Yuliya Levchenko claim gold five years after she was crowned champion in Nanjing, while Nazim Babayev of Azerbaijan, another veteran of the YOG in China, won the men’s triple jump in Glasgow.
World Figure Skating Championships
Three years after winning bronze at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016, Kazakh figure skater Elizabet Tursynbayeva claimed silver in the ladies’ singles at the World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama (Japan) after an impressive routine.
Tursynbayeva successfully landed a quadruple salchow in Japan, becoming the first female skater to execute a quad in a senior competition, to book her place both in the history books and on the podium.
Since her appearance at the YOG, the teenager has claimed bronze at the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo and silver at the 2019 Four Continents Championships in Anaheim (USA).