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2018 Wrap Up: October's Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games

27 December 2018

AOC: The Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) treated the world to a taste of the future of elite sport, when 4000 teenagers from 206 countries competed on the biggest stage of their young careers.

Australia assembled a team of 88 young guns across 26 different sports, who came together in Sydney for their pre departure camp, “Champ Camp” before heading over to Argentina for the third YOG.

It was at Champ Camp that the young athletes met their team mates and were prepared for the Olympic stage with words of wisdom from Australian Olympians, Bronte Campbell (swimming), Brandon Starc (high jump) and Jessica Thornton (athletics).

The young Olympians were also lucky enough to be accompanied and mentored by Young Change Maker and Modern Pentathlon Olympic Champion, Chloe Esposito, who remained by their side throughout the Games along with Chef De Mission and dual fencing Olympian, Evelyn Halls who led the team.

Canberra's Keely Small was announced as the Australian Flag Bearer, leading the charge towards YOG success.

The 17-year-old U18 and U20 800m Australian record holder said of the honour;

“There are so many elite athletes in this group, to be chosen out of everyone is an amazing honour and I’m really looking forward to leading them in Argentina.”

In an Olympic first, the Team was greeted by a massive street party in the widest avenue in the world for the Opening Ceremony, but it wasn't long before the party ended and the hard work began.

The first of the Australian medals came from the pool with three silvers and a bronze in day two of competition.

Michaela Ryan won Australia’s first medal of the Games, taking bronze in the 200m butterfly, before Chelsea Hodges and Kaylee McKeown backed it up with a silver each in the 50m breaststroke and 100m backstroke. The women’s 4x100m medley relay team of Ryan, Hodges, McKeown and Abbey Webb then added another silver to the haul.

McKeown also claimed a 200m backstroke bronze the following day.

Rower Cormac Kennedy-Leverett collected bronze for Australia in the Men’s 500m single sculls, while trampolinist Liam Christie and Rhythmic Gymnast, Lidiia Iakovleva were members of the gold and bronze winning Multidiscipline Gymnastics Team Event.

Day five of Buenos Aires 2018 was dubbed the “Aussie Goldrush” of the competition, with three gold medals being claimed in one day, along with a team silver.

 Australia’s first gold medals went to golfers Grace Kim and Karl Vilips, while Kaylee McKeown won gold in scorching fashion in the 50m backstroke.

Grace and Karl

 Seventeen-year-old Kim said of winning Australia’s first gold,

“That was amazing, I’m blown away! It’s so special to win an Olympic medal.

“All the Aussie athletes have been trying their hardest, and I’m so happy to be able to win a gold for our Team, it’s something so special and I’ll cherish it forever.”

While team mate Vilips echoed her thoughts on his own gold medal,

“To be able to win the first gold medals for Australia is incredible, I can’t describe it,” Vilips said.

“It feels great, a lot of hard work has paid off. It feels special to beat a stellar field like this.”

In the pool McKeown was equally as elated,

“I haven’t trained for the 50m before, so to get a gold medal for Australia to add to the tally is really exciting for me,” she said.

“I’m just really proud of the teammates I’m here with. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I did, they’re with me every step of the way.

The Aussie athletics team kept the medals coming, with Flag Bearer Keely Small taking out gold in the 800m while hurdler Sophie White, 1500m/Cross Country runner, Jaylah Hancock-Cameron, Long Jumper Josh Cowley and High Jumper Oscar Miles each claimed silver. 

All Australian athletes finished in the top 10 with impressive medal and personal best results. Australia landed seventh on the medal table, ahead of athletics powerhouses America, Germany, France and Japan, in an exciting sign of what's to come for the future of Australian athletics.

 Aussie YOG Aths Team

Trampolinist, Jessica Pickering added silver to the Aussie tally along with tennis player Rinky Hijikata who grabbed a silver of his own in international doubles. Triathlon duo of Josh Ferris and Charlotte Derbyshire teamed up with NZ, also taking out the Mixed Triathlon silver.

But in the greatest underdog tale of the YOG, the Australian Basketball 3x3 Team of Alex Fowler, Sara-Rose Smith, Ruby Porter and Suzi-Rose (Rosie) Deegan, who came into the Games ranked last, took home an emotional bronze medal in front of a sea of supporters and family.

The team, all aged 17, showed maturity beyond their years to bounce back to play for bronze just 90 minutes after losing a heartbreaking semi-final in overtime, after previously playing on a red-hot undefeated run.

Canberra-based Deegan said their finals performance showed the team’s strength of character.

“We were devastated after the France loss, but credit to the girls we bounced back really quickly – we’re a resilient group,” she said.

“And despite missing out on gold and silver it’s all that much sweeter to be able to finish on a win for bronze.”

It was an emotional finish for the team, embracing each other and their Australian support crew.

“My brother grabbed me after the game, he started crying, I started crying, he kept saying ‘I’m so proud of you’ – I’m so blessed to have my family over here supporting,” said Smith.

“It’s a true blessing to have our family and supporters over here.”

As the Games wrapped up, Australia’s Closing Ceremony Flag Bearer was named as Grace Kim.

Grace Kim

The Sydney-sider said of the appointment;

“It means so much to me to even be selected for the Australian Team – to be asked to carry the flag is so special, I’ll cherish this for a long time."

In total Australia produced a team of 88 athletes who competed across 26 sports, claiming 16 individual and five mixed international medals.

The haul was spread across golf (two gold), swimming (gold, two silver, three bronze)  athletics  (gold, four silver) rowing (bronze), basketball 3x3 (bronze), gymnastics (silver - individual, gold, bronze - mixed), tennis (silver - mixed), triathlon (silver - mixed), badminton (bronze - mixed).

All in all, it was a stellar campaign for the young Aussies, with the 88-strong Team finishing 12th on the medal table, ahead of traditional Olympic powerhouses like Great Britain and Germany.

Liana Buratti
olympics.com.au

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