Lausanne 2020 YOG: Athletes to watch

Keep your eyes on these top performers at the Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland

It may be the Winter Youth Olympic Games 2020, but plenty of the athletes on show already boast senior competitive experience.

Here, we take a look at some of the top names to watch out for in the mountains of Switzerland and France from 9-22 January.

Lausanne 2020 will be streamed live on Olympic Channel, and the full even schedule - including details how to watch it online - can be found here.

Ruka Hirano: Snowboarding starlet

Japanese snowboarder Ruka Hirano is not related to double Olympic silver medallist Ayumu Hirano, but it looks like the younger man is destined for similar success.

Coincidentally, the 17-year-old shredder is also a halfpipe specialist.

In 2019, he won silver at the FIS Junior World Championships in Leysin, the same venue which will host the halfpipe at Lausanne 2020.

However, commentators will have to keep their wits about them, as Ayumu's younger brother Kaishu Hirano will also be competing in the halfpipe.

The home challenge is led by Nick Puenter.

The 17-year-old won Big Air and slopestyle gold at the 2019 European Youth Olympic Festival in Sarajevo last February, although he disappointed at April's Junior World Championships.

Teen snowboarding sensation Ruka Hirano poised to impress at Lausanne 2020

Teen snowboarding sensation Ruka Hirano poised to impress at Lausanne 2020

The Japanese women also look set for medals with reigning two-time halfpipe world junior champion Mitsuki Ono leading the way.

She does battle again with USA's Tessa Maud - silver medallist on both occasions - in the bid to succeed Chloe Kim as Winter Youth Olympic champion.

Over in freestyle skiing, watch out for Kelly Sildaru who would have been a gold medal contender at PyeongChang 2018 but missed the Games with a knee injury.

To prove the point, the Estonian beat Olympic gold medallist Cassie Sharpe to become world halfpipe champion last February.

Equally adept in slopestyle, the 17-year-old is also a junior world champion, a World Cup event winner and a multi-X Games medallist.

2019 World Championships ski halfpipe podium (L-R): runner-up Cassie Sharpe, winner Kelly Sildaru, third-placed Brita Sigourney
2019 World Championships ski halfpipe podium (L-R): runner-up Cassie Sharpe, winner Kelly Sildaru, third-placed Brita Sigourney2019 World Championships ski halfpipe podium (L-R): runner-up Cassie Sharpe, winner Kelly Sildaru, third-placed Brita Sigourney

Zhang Kexin could also be one to watch in women's halfpipe, having represented China at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and won several World Cup events.

Swedish slopestyle and Big Air skier Jennie-Lee Burmansson has also tasted podium success in the Winter X Games, and will be raring to go after missing several months of last season due to injury.

Also look out for Kiernan Fagan in slopestyle and Big Air, with the American finishing in the top three several times on the 2018-19 World Cup circuit and quickly becoming a household name.

All eyes on Russian figure skaters

Russia is to figure skating, what snow is to the Swiss Alps in winter.

While many of the nation's brightest stars won't be skating in Lausanne, keep an eye on Daniil Samsonov - a student of Eteri Tutberidze, who coached Alina Zagitova to Olympic glory at PyeongChang 2018.

The 14-year-old was third in December's Junior Grand Prix Final with team-mate Andrei Mozalev, who will also be in Lausanne, taking silver.

Canada's Stephen Gogolev is another medal contender after winning the Junior Grand Prix Final 12 months previously.

The 15-year-old was trained by Brian Orser (who guided Yuzuru Hanyu to Olympic gold medals in 2014 and 2018) but switched to Rafael Arutunian, the coach of double world champion Nathan Chen, at the start of this season.

You Young looks to be the favourite in the ladies' singles.

On her senior Grand Prix debut, the 15-year-old Korean became the 11th woman to land a triple Axel in competition on her way to third place at Skate Canada.

She just missed out on a place in the Grand Prix Final after finishing fourth in the Cup of China.

Tutberidze's '3A' - Grand Prix Final winner Alena Kostornaia, double world junior gold medallist Alexandra Trusova and recent Russian champion Anna Shcherbakova - will not be in Lausanne.

Also absent is another Tutberidze pupil, Junior Grand Prix Final winner Kamila Valieva, and US national champion Alysa Liu.

High hopes for Latvia

Latvia have at least two big medal hopes in Lausanne.

Traditionally strong in sliding sports, their first prospect is Gints Berzins who was a silver medallist in the team relay event at last January's Junior European Luge Championships which were held on the unique St. Moritz track being used at these Games.

Since then, Berzins has won two Youth World Cup events to share the overall lead of the 2019-20 series with Germany's Timon Grancagnolo who looks set to be his main rival again.

Germany also hold a strong hand in the women's luge with Jessica Degenhardt the runaway Youth World Cup leader from team-mate Merle Fraebel.

Luge | Sport Explainer - Lausanne 2020

Luge | Sport Explainer - Lausanne 2020

Latvia will also be hoping for big things from alpine skier Dzenifera Germane.

The 16-year-old lit up the FIS Alpecimbra Children Cup, which is considered the unofficial U14/U16 World Championship.

Previous winners include multiple Olympic champions Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn and Janica Kostelic, so the omens are good.

Austria are always a force to be reckoned with on the slope with the name on everyone's lips Amanda Salzgeber, daughter of Olympic champ Anita Wachter and former world slalom silver medallist Rainer Salzgeber.

The young all-rounder suffered with injuries in 2019, but is expected to be competing for medals at YOG.

For the home team, Luc Roduit and Delphine Darbellay are among those with hopes of making the podium.

Watch out for Lukas Weissbacher

Biathlon takes place in French resort Les Tuffes, and Austria's Lukas Weissbacher has been tipped for glory having held his own against senior competition for some time now.

Cross-country skiing is at nearby Valee de Joux, and the German women’s team looks full to the brim with talent.

Helen Hoffmann and Germana Thannheimer excelled against more senior opponents at last February's Winter European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Sarajevo and, with a year’s extra development now under their belts, both are expected to be challenging for gold in Lausanne.

Also in the cross-country is USA's Will Koch, the son of Innsbruck 1976 silver medallist Bill, who won the nation's first Olympic medal in the sport.

Diego Amaya: From the tropics to ice

Colombian speed skating will be represented for the first time ever at the Winter Youth Olympic Games by Diego Amaya.

The South American nation's only other representative is Maude Crossland in the women's monobob.

Amaya, 16, has performed well in the 2019-20 ISU Junior World Cup, and will hope to do so again on the frozen lake of St. Moritz.

He faces strong opposition from the cream of Asia with Yudai Yamamoto leading the Japanese challenge.

The Dutch could dominate the women's competition with Myrthe de Boer impressing in the two Junior World Cup events so far this season.

Colombia on ice: Speed skater Diego Amaya and his mother take on the world 

Colombia on ice: Speed skater Diego Amaya and his mother take on the world 

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago will have their first ever competitor at the Winter Youth Olympics in the form of Massachusetts-based alpine skier Abigail Vieira.

The 17-year-old will go in the slalom and giant slalom and could become the nation's first Winter Olympian for 20 years at Beijing 2022.

New York-born Julian Macaraeg will become the Philippines' first-ever short track speed skater at the Winter Youth Olympics, and the first of his nation overall to compete at the winter YOG since 2012.

In the women's events, a big showing is expected from Slovakia's Petra Rusnakova, who claimed 500m and 1000m gold at the European Winter Youth Olympic Festival last February.

But South Korea will be the nation to beat having won five golds out of six in short track in Lillehammer four years ago.

Norwegian hopefuls

Norway is comfortably the most successful Winter Olympic Games nation in recent times, and it looks as if their future is in good hands.

At the Les Tuffes Nordic centre, Gyda Westvold Hansen will be hoping to go one better than her silver medal at the 2019 Nordic Combined Junior World Championships.

On the men’s side, big things are expected of free skier Tevje Skaug, who will be twisting and flipping in the Villars Winter Park.

Lausanne 2020 sliding favourites

Bobsleigh, luge and skeleton will all take place on the world's only sustainable track at St. Moritz, which is built by hand every November.

Viktoria Cernanska is in pole position to seal women's monobob gold for Slovakia on it, having won the 2019 Omega Youth Series.

Russia will probably be back in the medals in luge, where doubles team-mates Mikhail Karnaukhov and Lurri Chirva won the 2018-19 Youth World Cup.

Germans Elisabeth Schroedl and Lukas David Nydegger will be favourites for skeleton gold, having sealed victory in the 2018-19 Omega Youth Series in St. Moritz.

Nydegger also competes in the Europe Cup, where he has already finished on the podium.

There will be plenty to cheer about for the home fans when home hero Fabian Gisler takes to the hill in men's monobob. The young Swiss is firing on all cylinders, having recorded two wins and a second-place in his first four Omega Youth Series outings in 2019.

King and Queen of the stones

The story of Canada's curling lead Emily Deschenes is one of realising a dream.

The Ottawa resident was just seven years old when she watched the Olympic Winter Games on home ice in Vancouver.

After 10 minutes of watching the curlers in action, she knew what she wanted to do in life and a rising star of the sport was born.

At Lausanne 2020, she will be hopeful of taking her team to the top with her.

One of Britain's strongest winter sports is curling, where Jamie Rankin is thought of as a potential world beater.

He is the son of Salt Lake City 2002 curling Olympic gold medallist Janice Rankin, and will compete in the mixed team curling competition.

Curling | Sport Explainer - Lausanne 2020

Curling | Sport Explainer - Lausanne 2020

Where to watch

Olympic Channel will stream 300 hours of action from the 13 days of competition in Lausanne with a dedicated Winter YOG channel available on olympicchannel.com, YouTube and connected devices such as Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android TV and Roku.

There will be an action-packed daily live show featuring news, highlights, trending stories and interviews in a fun and interactive format streamed on Facebook, Twitter and olympicchannel.com, plus a daily Olympic Channel Podcast featuring insightful interviews with personalities from across the Olympic world.

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