The stars of Buenos Aires to watch for in Tokyo 2020

Athletes with Youth Olympic success hope to translate it to Olympic gold in two years

As the stars of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games head home, many will begin to shift their focus to 2020 and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Their hope is to follow in the footsteps of champions before them. South Africa’s Chad le Clos and Great Britain’s Jade Jones turned Youth Olympic success into Olympic gold medals just two years later.

Here’s a list of Buenos Aires medalists to keep an eye on, with Tokyo 2020 less than two years away.

Minakov and Milak: a rivalry in the making

Russia's Andrei Minakov and Hungarian Kristof Milak won eight YOG swimming ...

Andrei Minakov, RUS. Andrei Minakov won an impressive seven medals in the swimming competition, including six golds. At just 16 years old, he and compatriot Kliment Kolesnikov are the most decorated athletes of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

Kliment Kolesnikov, RUS. Kliment Kolesnikova matched his teammate Minakov’s impressive feat: bringing home seven medals from Buenos Aires. Kolesnikov, who set the 50m backstroke world record at this year’s European Championships, swept the backstroke competitions at the Youth Olympics with golds in the 50m, 100m and 200m races.

Kristof Milak, HUN. Hungarian swimmer Kristof Milak won three individual golds in Buenos Aires (200m and 400m freestyle and 200m butterfly), in addition to a silver in the 100m butterfly. His three individual golds match that of Russian’s Minakov and Kolesnikov setting up a potential rivalry in the lead up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Milak already has impressive senior level accolades, having taken medals at the 2017 World Championships and 2018 European Championships.

Tomokazu Harimoto, JPN. Tomokazu Harimoto is a rising star in the table tennis world as the youngest winner of an ITTF World Tour men’s singles title. In Buenos Aires, he took silver medals in the singles and team competitions. Currently, Harimoto is ranked No. 8 in the ITTF world rankings but has been ranked as high as No. 6.

Wang Chuqin, CHN. Wang Chuqin upset Harimoto for the individual gold medal in the men’s individual table tennis competition, 4-1. Chuqin also finished with the gold medal in the team competition. The 18-year-old is on the rise in 2018, having helped China to the men’s team gold medal at the Asian Games earlier this year. He was also the mixed doubles gold medal winner with Sun Yingsha.

Sun Yingsha eyes the gold in team competition (Photo: Simon Bruty for OIS/IOC)

Sun Yingsha, CHN. Like compatriot Wang, Sun Yingsha leaves the 2018 Youth Olympic Games with gold medals in both the individual and team table tennis competitions. In the seven matches it took to win individual gold, Sun dropped just three games.

Raffaela Igl, GER. Germany’s Raffaela Igl claimed the gold medal in the women’s -78kg judo competition. The 17-year-old won a bronze medal in 2017 at the World U18 Judo Championships, competing in the -70kg category.

Yuka Ueno, JPN. The gold medalist in the women’s fencing individual foil competition, Yuka Ueno of Japan is currently ranked 57th by the International Fencing Federation. She finished 25th in July’s senior World Championships, after having taken golds in both the junior and cadet divisions at the junior Worlds in April.

Maria Gimenez, VEN. Maria Gimenez of Venezuela won the gold medal in the -44kg women’s judo competition. The 16-year-old Youth Olympic champion recorded top three finishes at five international competitions earlier this season, including the Pan American U18 Championships.

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Giorgia Villa, ITA. Italian gymnast Giorgia Villa came to Buenos Aires as the all-around favorite, having won the junior European Championships earlier in 2018. Villa didn’t disappoint and claimed the all-around, vault, and floor gold medals and a silver on the uneven bars. The Olympic Channel also featured Villa in its original series Heroes of the Future.

Goh Jin Wei, MAS. A 2015 junior badminton World champion, Goh Jin We of Malaysia came into the Youth Olympic Games ranked 26th in the Badminton World Federation’s world rankings. She is the first player to win both the World junior title and the Youth Olympic Games gold medal.

Takeru Kitazono, JPN. Japanese gymnast Takeru Kitazono dominated the men’s gymnastics competition in Buenos Aires, winning six gold medals. Kitazono took the gold medal by nearly two points despite falling on his parallel bars dismount. He is the second Japanese man to win the all-around at the Youth Olympic, after Yuya Kamoto won the title in 2010.

Davide di Veroli, ITA. Davide de Veroli, the Italian flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony, won fencing gold in the men’s epee competition. The 17-year-old has already won three medals at the fencing junior Worlds, including two golds.

Ajna Kesely, HUN. Ajna Kesely leaves Buenos Aires as a Youth Olympic Games champion after having already won gold medals in the senior European Championships, the junior European Championships and the Junior World Championships since 2016. Kesely dominated the freestyle events this fortnight in Argentina, with golds in the 200m, 400m and 800m distances.

Shuta Tanaka, JPN. Ranked 15th in the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s men’s lead world rankings, Japan’s Shuta Tanaka grabbed the silver medal in the men’s combined sport climbing competition in Buenos Aires. Tanaka finished sixth, third and first in the speed, boulder and lead segments, respectively.

Kaylee McKeown, AUS. Australia’s Kaylee McKeown claimed four swimming medals at the Youth Olympics, including the gold medal in the women’s 50m backstroke. At the 2017 World Championships, she helped Australia to a gold medal in the women’s 4x100m mixed medley. McKeown’s sister, Taylor, is an Olympic silver medalist from the Rio Olympics and Commonwealth Games gold medalist.

Li Shifeng, CHN. Li Shifeng of China won the men’s badminton singles gold medal in convicing style, losing only one game (to Ireland’s Nhat Nguyen). Still ranked out of the top 400 in the world, Li shocked world No. 45 Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia earlier this year at a tournament in China. The upset win signaling a bright future ahead for the 18-year-old.

Giorgia Speciale, ITA. With a name built for greatness, Italy’s Giorgia Speciale won the gold medal in the women’s windsurfer techno 293+. The 18-year-old has already won the 2018 Windsurfing Youth World Championships title and back-to-back golds at the U15 World Championships in 2013 and 2014. She is currently ranked 152nd in the World, according to World Sailing.

Kumushkon Fayzullaeva, UZB. Kumushkon Fayzullaeva of Uzbekistan ran away with the women’s weightlifting gold medal in the 63kg division, winning by an impressive 16kg margin. For perspective, 15kg separated second place from fifth. She bested her total from the junior World Championships, where she also took gold in 2018, by 4kg.

Giuseppe Ficco, ITA. Like Fayzullaeva, Italys’ Giuseppe Ficco was a runaway winner in the men’s 85kg weightlifiting competition. Ficco became Youth Olympic Games champion by defeating Azerbaijan’s Tarmenkhan Babayev by 9kg. In 2018, Ficco has claimed gold medals at the European Youth Championships and the Mediterranean Games.

Daria Trubnikova, RUS. 15-year-old Russian rhythmic gymnast Daria Trubnikova easily won the gold medal in the all-around competition, four points clear of second place. Trubnikova is the latest in a long line of Russians who have dominated the sport. If she makes it to Tokyo 2020, she’ll be a favorite for gold: a Russian has won the last five Olympic titles in rhythmic gymnastics.

Polina Shcherbakova, RUS. Russian Polina Shcherbakova won the women’s -44kg taekwondo gold medal in Buenos Aires. In her march to gold, Shcherbakova gave up just 10 points while scoring an impressive 33 over three rounds. Her victory comes nearly a year after winning the junior European title in Larnaca, Cyprus.

Jordan Diaz, CUB. Cuba’s Jordan Diaz won the men’s triple jump gold medal in Buenos Aires. His 17.04m jump was more than a meter ahead of second place’s Yahor Chuiko of Belarus. Diaz, the 2017 World Youth Champion and 2018 World U20 Champion in triple jump, owns the U18 world record at 17.41 meters.

Yaroslava Mahuchikh, UKR. Yaroslava Mahuchikh of Ukraine set a new personal best en route to the women’s high jump gold medal at the Youth Olympics. Her 1.95m would have been competitive at the Rio Olympics, where the high mark in the final was 1.97m, and with two years to improve, she could contend in Tokyo.

Mykhaylo Kokhan, UKR. Ukraine’s Mykhaylo Kokhan won the men’s hammer throw gold medal. His throw was nearly three-and-a-half meters farther than silver medalist Valentin Andreev of Bulgaria, 85.14 to 81.67. In a league of his own in junior competition, Kokhan will have to adjust to a heavier hammer used in senior competition to be competitive in Tokyo.