Less than two years after winning doubles gold alongside Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, Iga Świątek made history by becoming the first Polish tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles title, as she triumphed in October’s French Open. The 19-year-old put in a dominant display in the final to overcome Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-4 6-1, making her the youngest singles champion at the tournament since Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest women's singles champion at Roland Garros since Monica Seles in 1992. Świątek, whose father Tomasz was a rower who competed at the Olympic Games Seoul 1988, climbed to a career high of 17th in the women’s world rankings as a result of her French Open triumph, and few would doubt her chances of climbing even higher after her rapid rise from YOG gold medallist to Grand Slam champion.
Since winning three gold medals and a silver at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, Hungarian swimmer Kristóf Milák has made an even bigger splash on the senior stage. At last year’s FINA World Aquatics Championships, the then 19-year-old smashed Michael Phelps’ 10-year-old world record in the men’s 200m butterfly en route to gold, clocking a sensational 1:50.73. That time knocked an incredible 0.78 seconds off the previous best of 1:51.51, set by the legendary Phelps in Rome in 2009, and marked Milák as one of the swimming world’s new stars.
After winning three gold medals at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, Lin Shan was quickly hailed as the future of China’s diving dynasty – and since then has been living up to those lofty expectations. As well as winning medals in the Diving World Series events, Lin partnered Yang Jian to the mixed team gold medal at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships – a first title for China in that event – and then went on to win the 10m platform at the FINA Diving Grand Prix in Malaysia. While the COVID-19 pandemic means she has not competed internationally so far in 2020, Lin is sure to have her sights firmly set on continuing her winning form at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Italy’s Giorgia Villa was the undisputed star of the women’s artistic gymnastics events at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, winning three individual gold medals – including the all-around title – and a silver.
Since then, she has made a seamless transition to the senior stage, competing in the 2019 European Championships, where she finished sixth in the all-around and eighth in the balance beam, before helping Italy win bronze – its first-ever team medal – at the 2019 World Championships. By qualifying for the final, Villa and team-mates Asia and Alice D'Amato, Elisa Iorio and Desiree Carofiglio also secured Italy’s place at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where Villa will hope to emulate her Buenos Aires heroics.
Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto was already a rising star on the global table tennis circuit when he won two silver medals – in singles and the mixed team event – at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018. In December 2016, he had become the youngest-ever winner of the boys' singles title at the World Junior Championships (aged just 13 years and 163 days), while in August 2017 he became the youngest-ever winner of an ITTF World Tour men's singles title (aged just 14 years and 61 days). Following his medal-winning exploits in Buenos Aires, Harimoto continued rewriting the history books, becoming the youngest-ever winner of an ITTF World Tour Grand Finals men's singles title in December 2018. Since then, he has finished as runner-up at the 2019 ITTF World Cup, claimed two further World Tour titles – including February’s Hungarian Open – and is currently ranked fourth in the world.
Cuban triple jumper Jordan Díaz produced one of the most eye-catching performances at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, as he secured gold with a best leap of 17.14m, which would have been enough to clinch fourth place in the Rio 2016 Olympic final. Since then, Díaz has claimed his first senior medal by winning silver at the Pan-American Games in Lima (Peru) and also extended his personal best to 17.49m – just 1cm shy of Volker Mai's world junior record, which was set in 1985.
Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh enjoyed an impressive 2019 season after winning YOG gold in Buenos Aires. First, she won the opening meeting of the 2019 Diamond League in Doha – becoming the youngest-ever athlete to win a Diamond League event at the age of just 17 years and 226 days – and then she returned to the Qatari capital a few months later to clinch silver at the 2019 World Athletics Championships. The then 18-year-old was only beaten to the world title on countback by 2010 YOG champion Mariya Lasitskene, as both successfully cleared 2.04m, with Mahuchikh setting a new world junior record. The Ukrainian returned to action in the Diamond League in August this year, winning the events in Monaco and Stockholm, and finishing second in Rome, as she continues her bid to dethrone three-time world champion Lasitskene as the queen of women’s high jumping.
Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary
India’s Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary won the women’s and men’s 10m air pistol events respectively at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, and since then have paired up to dominate the mixed team 10m air pistol on the ISSF World Cup circuit, ahead of the event’s debut at next year’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The duo won the World Cup events in New Delhi, Beijing, Munich and Rio de Janeiro in 2019, but have so far been unable to continue their impressive winning streak, with events cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Less than a year after winning bronze in the 800m at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, Ethiopia’s Hirut Meshesha beat a field of experienced rivals to clinch the 800m title at the African Games in Rabat (Morocco). Then aged 18, Meshesha clocked 2:03.16 to beat the likes of Ugandan Olympian Halimah Nakaayi, who went on to win last year’s world title in Doha. Meshesha has also improved her personal best to 2:00.92 and will now look to lower her time even further before a potential Olympic debut in 2021.
Colombian diver Daniel Restrepo – who won gold in both the 3m springboard and mixed team events in Buenos Aires – will be among the YOG graduates to step up to the Olympic stage in Tokyo next year, as he secured his place at the Games thanks to his victory in the 3m springboard at the 2019 Pan-American Games.