Kagiyama, You, Gu, Michkov, 'skimo' - the top 10 breakout stars of Lausanne 2020

The third Winter Youth Olympic Games delivered superb sport and great moments, all with a reduced carbon footprint. Here's our rundown of the top 10 highlights.
By Ken Browne

1. You Young, figure skating sensation

Korean superstar figure skater You Young came to Lausanne carrying great expectations on her shoulders.

And didn't she deliver.

You won her first Korean national title at 11 years of age - one year younger than her idol Yuna Kim - and at 15 she's won four.

Now she's had her first taste of Olympic success too.

Day 4 saw Young rock the world by winning her first Youth Olympics gold medal, the first non-Russian to take this competition.

She took both the short program and the free skate with Russians Kseniia Sinitsyna and Anna Frolova completing the podium.

Young brought her famous triple Axel to the ice and landed it like dream in her free skate, but it looks like there's so much more to come.

2. The Kagiyama Yuma show

Plenty was also expected from Japan's latest prodigious figure skating talent Kagiyama Yuma.

Weeks before Lausanne 2020, Kagiyama had shared a podium with Uno Shoma and Hanyu Yuzuru, at the 2019-20 Japanese nationals.

But he was forced to be at his absolute best in Switzerland.

Third in the short program behind Andrei Mozalev and Daniil Samsonov including a collision with the rink boards, Kagiyama came back two days later and put on one of the performances of the Games in the free skate.

Two quads and a triple Axel right at the end of his skate gave him gold and his reaction was priceless - as was his coach's!

Future Olympic champion?

He certainly has the talent so watch out Beijing 2022!

"I am super happy to be standing on the podium today. It’s a once in a lifetime moment." - Kagiyama Yuma to Olympic Channel

3. Gu Ailing Eileen sparkles

Fresh off the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week, Gu Ailing Eileen showed the world that she can bring the style to the freestlye ski slopes too.

With gold in women's halfpipe, gold in Big Air, and silver in slopestyle, Gu proved that she's a star in the making.

Born to an American father and a Chinese mother, Gu chose to represent China and is lighting it up wherever she goes.

With the next Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, don't be surprised to this all-rounder delighting local fans and gracing podiums in two years' time.

4. Next-gen Olympic and NHL stars

The ice hockey tournaments lit up Lausanne and gave us a glimpse at the future of Olympic and NHL hockey.

On the women's side Sweden and Japan impressed most with Nicole Hall and Ito Makoto really catching the eye.

Japan made history by beating Sweden in the final and preventing a Swedish three-in-a-row, and they could easily make the step up and challenge the world order in future.

In the men's tournament we saw hockey so fast and ferocious that it was easy to forget you were watching mostly 15-year-olds on the ice.

The two stand-out stars were Russia forward Matvei Michkov and USA's double hat trick hero Isaac Howard.

Michkov got the better of Howard in the final, scoring twice in a 4-0 Russia victory to finish as the competition's topscorer with nine to Howard's seven.

Having only just turned 15, the Perm-born youngster is already being talked about as a potential number one pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

Meanwhile, Howard's goalscoring exploits make him a near-certainty to be selected in the 2022 draft.

5. Hirano heroes: Japan's Empire of steeze

Gold and silver in the men's and women's halfpipe, gold in the men's and women's Big Air, Japan were unstoppable in snowboard.

First Ono Mitsuki and Kaji Manon tricked their way to gold in the women's halfpipe on Day 11, and then Hirano Ruka and Hirano Kaishu went and matched them on Day 12.

The world was seeing double again when the Big Air competition took to the skies and Kimata Ryoma and Aoto Kawakami won men's gold and silver before Asanuma Hinari completed the double-double by topping the women's podium.

What's Japanese for stoked?

6. Amelie Klopfenstein: Alpine ski revelation

Local athletes revelled in performing in front of cheering fans at packed stadiums and ski slopes and Switzerland won 24 medals - 10 gold - second only to Russia overall.

Of the many revelations in Lausanne, the name Amelie Klopfenstein really stands out.

Chosen initially as an alternate, or reserve, the Swiss flyer showed that she could be a future Swiss superstar of alpine skiing with gold in Super-G and Giant Slalom, and bronze in Alpine Combined.

Thrilling, fearless skiing made Klopfenstein a must-watch in Lausanne and now the sky's the limit.

7. Hadn't heard of Kelly Sildaru? You have now

Estonian sensation Kelly Sildaru denied Gu Ailing Eileen a hat trick of gold medals at Lausanne 2020.

Sildaru would have been a gold medal contender at PyeongChang 2018 when she was just 15, but missed out due to a knee injury.

The 17-year-old decided not to take part in the half-pipe, the event in which she beat Olympic champion Cassie Sharpe to become world champion last year.

But she was a class apart in slopestyle, winning gold and enjoyed the view from an Olympic podium for the first time.

You get the feeling it won't be the last.

8. Korean short track a blur of gold

Sometimes a country comes to dominate a discipline so spectacularly that you wonder if they're from another planet.

So it is with Republic of Korea's short track speed skating.

They won seven medals at Lausanne 2020 and all seven came in short track.

When Shim Suk Hee won gold at the first ever WYOGs at Innsbruck 2012 it put him on the fast track to Olympic glory as he went on to win four medals at Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018.

We caught a glimpse of the latest talents to roll off the production line at Lausanne 2020.

On the women's side, Seo Whi Min looks born to win on the ice as she took 500m and 1000m gold with almost consummate ease.

Jang Sungwoo and Lee Jeongmin are the names to remember from the men's side.

Lee won 500m gold ahead of Jang before the pair traded places in the 1000m with Jang talking the gold.

9. Ski mountaineering - where twinning is winning

'Skimo' made a successful debut at Lausanne 2020 and proved a fascinating addition to the program.

When Swiss twins Thomas and Robin Bussard won gold and silver in the men's competition, the sport had its first big Olympic-sized story and their hug at the finish line was unforgettable.

Then they went and did it again in the team competition, this time sharing the top of the podium with a gold medal each.

Moments like these make the Games what they are.

10. Lausanne

The last word has to go to organisers of the Games.

Lausanne 2020 showed the world a cleaner, greener way to run a Games using a revolutionary 'two-wave' system which made the best use of accommodation and resources, as well as reducing the need to build more facilities and thus lower the carbon footprint.

The venues - from the main hubs in Lausanne and St. Moritz to Leysin, Les Diablarets, Villars, Champery, Vallee du Joux and Les Tuffes in France - were exceptional and provided a stunning setting with the volunteers playing their part.

The unique man-made luge and bobsleigh run at St. Moritz, last used for an Olympic event back in 1948, was another example of how to use local resources and natural spaces to deliver sport at its very best.

The outdoor lake was similarly spectacular and delivered Olympic quality ice.

There's nothing more to say to Lausanne other than 'Merci', 'Danke', 'Grazie' and 'Engraziel'.