YOG stars shining brightly in PyeongChang
As the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 reach their halfway point, there have already been a succession of eye-catching performances by former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) stars.
Among the 2930 athletes in PyeongChang, more than 220 have previously competed at the Winter YOG and many of them have been showing how their experiences at Innsbruck 2012 and Lillehammer 2016 have prepared them to excel on sport’s biggest stage.
Within just the first seven full days of PyeongChang 2018 action, YOG athletes have won an incredible four gold medals – more than they won during the entire Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.
Korean short track speed skater Lim Hyojun was the first YOG star to strike gold, topping the podium for the host nation in the men’s 1,500m. The 21-year-old won gold and silver medals at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012, but then struggled with a series of injuries before climbing his way to the top.
"Many times I wanted to give up,” he said. “But my target was clear; it was PyeongChang 2018 and that was why I was able to win."
German ski jumper Andreas Wellinger was among the YOG athletes to clinch gold in Sochi four years ago, winning the men’s large hill team event alongside Andreas Wank, Marinus Kraus and Severin Freund, and he has now added to his growing medal collection with individual normal hill gold and large hill silver in PyeongChang.
"It's crazy,” he said. “Coming to the Olympics, winning a gold and a silver medal in the two individual competitions; it's unbelievable and I think I need a few more weeks to realise what I’ve done."
Wellinger had won mixed team ski jumping gold at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012 alongside Katharina Althaus and Tom Lubitz, and Althaus has also celebrated medal success in PyeongChang by winning silver in the women’s individual event, ahead of YOG gold medallist Sara Takanashi, of Japan, who won bronze.
Other Innsbruck 2012 graduates to shine in PyeongChang include Austria’s David Gleirscher, who clinched a dramatic gold in the men’s luge singles before joining up with Lillehammer 2016 alumnus Madeleine Egle to claim bronze in the mixed team relay; and Japanese figure skater Shoma Uno, who followed his Innsbruck 2012 silver with another silver in the men’s singles.
Perhaps one of the most memorable YOG performances in PyeongChang so far, however, belongs to American snowboarder Chloe Kim. Having been too young to compete at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, Kim turned her attention to the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016, where she clinched gold in both the halfpipe and slopestyle. Focusing her efforts on the halfpipe in PyeongChang, she produced a near-faultless final run to score 98.25 points, beating China’s Liu Jiayu (89.75) and US team-mate and two-time Innsbruck 2012 silver medallist Arielle Gold (85.75) to become Olympic champion at the age of just 17.
And Kim was quick to hail her YOG experiences after collecting her Olympic gold medal.
"Going through the whole Youth Olympic Games experience was really helpful,” she said. "It just gives you a better idea of what the Games are going to be like and, if anything, it made coming here way more mellow and chilled, which I like.”
With another seven days of action to enjoy in PyeongChang, expect to see more YOG stars using their experience to reach impressive new heights on the Olympic stage.