Stars of the Games: Buenos Aires 2018 YOG revelations shine bright two years on

Buenos Aires came alive with the magic of sport at the Youth Olympic Games. We look back at the best moments and follow up on the breakout stars

By Olympic Channel

Two years ago the future of sport descended on Buenos Aires and delivered an unforgettable Youth Olympic Games.

From the 6-18 of October 2018, the world was given a glimpse at the next generation of Olympic history makers as 4,000 athletes from 206 countries set it off in front of a million spectators, with millions more watching live all over the world.

From Argentina’s swim sensation Delfina Pignatiello to Russia's breaking champ Bumblebee, and on to gymnastics' all around winner Giorgia Villa, there was a lot to dance about in the city of tango.

And who could forget Russia's Andrej Minakov - Kliment Kolesnikov 1-2 dream-team swimmers, or 5-star Japanese gymnastics revelation Kitazono Takeru who won five (5!) gold medals.

It's a bumper crop of graduates. Could any follow in the footsteps of South Africa’s Chad le Clos and Great Britain’s Jade Jones who both went from Youth Olympic success to Olympic gold medals?

We look back at the top moments of BA2018 and catch up on some of the Games' most exciting breakout talents.

Delfina Pignatiello owns Pan Ams

When Argentine swim prodigy Delfina Pignatiello dedicated her silver medal win to her grandmother with 'Abuela' written on her hand and tears flowing on the podium in Buenos Aires, she melted hearts across an entire country and beyond.

Delfina won two silver medals in the 400m and 800m freestyle events at the 2018 YOGs and a year later was winning hearts, minds, and medals again.

Pignatiello ruled the pool at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 winning 400m gold, 800m gold, and 1500m gold to rewrite Pan Am history.

Now Delfina has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, and could challenge Katie Ledecky's hold over the freestyle events.

The boost that Argentina's swim sensation carried from the YOGs to Lima and now from Lima to Japan could also see her take her swimming to the next level in the South American nation.

Watch out Tokyo!

Russia's next-gen swim stars

But Delfina wasn't the only aquatic revelation in the Argentine capital. Russia's YOG breakout stars Andrei Minakov and Kliment Kolesnikov are ready for the big stage too.

Both lit up Buenos Aires, winning a staggering six gold medals and one silver each, and both showed at the 2019 Gwangju Worlds that they can go stroke-for-stroke with the best in the business at the senior level too.

Minakov beat South African Olympic champ Chad le Clos to win silver in the men's 100m butterfly, only Caeleb Dressel was faster, and only by a single second.

Minakov was still only 17.

He also claimed a silver and a bronze in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays to complete a hugely impressive maiden world champs.

One of his teammates in both of those relays was Kliment Kolesnikov who also made an individual podium in the 50m backstroke, winning bronze in China.

Minakov will be 18 and Kolesnikov 21 at Tokyo, another year to get bigger, stronger, fitter, and faster.

Saying that both will be a threat to the podium is an understatement.

The future of Japanese gymnastics

The future has a name: Kitazono Takeru.

At just 15 years of age Kitazono wowed his way to five gold medals at the Youth Olympics - untouchable in the all-around, floor exercise, rings, parallel bars, and high bar apparatus, becoming the first artistic gymnast to ever achieve this at a YOG.

So good that he was compared to 'King' Uchimura Kohei - Japan's three-time Olympic gold medallist, who won't be defending his all-around Rio 2016 crown in Tokyo.

Could his young successor announce himself in spectacular fashion at a home Games next summer?

Kitazono will be 18, and the Tokyo Games could become the Kitazono Takeru Games just as they did at YOG 2018.

Giorgia Villa: Tokyo bound

Staying with artistic gymnastics Italy's Giorgia Villa shone in women's competition, taking a sparkling haul of three gold medals and one silver home from Buenos Aires.

All around, vault and floor exercise champ, Villa also bagged silver in uneven bars.

And since the YOGs she's gone from strength to strength, helping Italy win their first ever team medal (bronze) at a World Championships.

Competing alongside the D'Amato twins Alice and Asia, Elisa Iorio, and Desirée Carofiglio at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart, Villa took part in all four events in the Team competition, leading Italy to a surprise bronze medal ahead of second seed China and only behind Russia and the USA on the podium.

That result also qualified Italy for the Tokyo Games, where Villa should lead the line.

"It was emotional," said the 17-year-old, who will be 18 at the Olympics.

"Frankly, we weren’t expecting this result, but Enrico [Casella, Italian coach] told us that we could bring home a medal. At the end of the third rotation, we realised that we would be able to win the bronze and we managed to do it."

Her rise to elite gymnastics will come as no surprise to those who have watched this child prodigy fulfill her potential.

Trubnikova still rising

In rhythmic gymnastics, Russia's latest talent to roll off the production line at the 2018 YOGs was Daria Trubnikova, who won the all-around competition with four points to spare.

A gold medal at the 2019 Grand Prix in Brno proved that Trubina's star is still on the rise.

Only 15 in Buenos Aires, Trubnikova is the latest in a long line of Russians who have dominated the sport.

Competition for places in the Russian Olympic team will be as fierce as ever, but if she makes it Trubina will be seen as a favorite for gold - a Russian has won the last five Olympic titles in rhythmic gymnastics.

No break for Bumblebee

And from one sport with dizzying spins to another, A standout debut sport in Buenos Aires was breaking, and Russian dazzler Sergey Chernyshev - AKA 'Bumblebee' - came out on top.

Bboys and Bgirls from across the world busted breaks and showed us what the sport is all about. So successful was its debut at Buenos Aires 2018 YOG that breaking has been approved as one of four provisional sports for Paris 2024.

While we won't see Bumblebee competing at Tokyo 2020 in 2021, keep an eye out for him when Paris rolls around.

He even dropped into the Winter Youth Olympic Games at Lausanne 2020 to give us a further look at what we'll be seeing in France.

3x3 Basketball at Tokyo 2020

Another big success at the Buenos Aires YOG was fast, furious, and always fun 3x3 basketball. So much so that we'll see it debut at Tokyo 2020.

The ten-minute matches, played on a half-court with one hoop and set to the soudtrack of a live DJ and dancers, proved a huge success at the 2018 YOGs, and Tokyo is getting ready for something brand new.

“Everybody has fun. The players, the audience, they have a really good time, they are surrounded by music, it’s in the open air,” Dusan Bulut told

He knows what he's talking about too, Bulut is the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) 3x3 number one-ranked men's player in the world.

“It's global, it’s urban, it’s a show.”

We can't wait.

Lin Shan world champion

Chinese diver Lin Shan was another star of the show in Buenos Aires two years ago, and we should see her at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics too.

Gold in the 3m springboard and 10m platform put her in the spotlight and after a gold medal performance as part of the mixed team in Gwangju at the 2019 World Championships, Shan has proved she's ready to form part of China's awe-inspiring diving team in Tokyo.

Not bad for someone who admitted she's scared of heights at the YOGs.

“I just jump. When I’m in the moment I just jump and don’t think about it.” Luckily, she almost always lands on the podium.

Buenos Aires 2018 YOG in Numbers

4000 athletes, 206 countries, 239 events, 32 sports, 12 mixed-NOC events, here are some other big numbers from Buenos Aires.


The percentage of female athletes participating – the first time in Olympic history that a Games edition has enjoyed full gender equality

The number of athletes representing host nation Argentina – the largest delegation at the Games

The number of athletes representing the Cook Islands, with swimmer Bede Aitu comprising the smallest delegation at the YOG

1 million
The number of spectators who attended Olympic events throughout the YOG

The time in seconds it took for South Africa’s Luke Davids to win the men’s stage two 100m race – the fastest time ever recorded at the YOG

The incredible number of shots played in a seemingly never-ending badminton rally between Japan’s Kodai Naraoka and India’s Lakshya Sen

The number of plates of food that were served in the dining hall of the Youth Olympic Village four times a day

The number of pizzas eaten in one night when the dining hall added the dish to its menu

The number of schoolchildren who were able to experience the YOG thanks to Buenos Aires 2018’s “The School goes to the Games” programme

The number of cultural and educational activities on offer to fans across all YOG venues