Talking Tokyo: YOG athletes look ahead to 2020 Olympic Games

As Tokyo celebrates one year to go until the start of the 2020 Olympic Games, hears from former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes about their ambitions and goals for the event.

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Emma McKeon (Australia)

Six-time YOG medallist, swimming, Singapore 2010

“I'm definitely looking ahead to Tokyo. I’ve improved my positions and improved my times since Rio. That's really what I'm looking to do each year – move up the rankings or improve my times and find things that I need to work on. Each year, chip away at different things and then hopefully in Tokyo reach the goals that I set for myself.

“I have achieved some good results, but I know there's still a lot more that I need to work on and a lot more that I know I can work on each year, like get stronger, and fitter, and work on different parts of my race. I think as long I know I've still got more to do then I know I can keep going and keep improving.”

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Duda (Brazil)

YOG gold medallist, beach volleyball, Nanjing 2014

“Tokyo 2020 is a big goal and I want to do everything in my power to qualify for the Games. It will be tough with all the competition in Brazil. Having competed at the YOG helps a lot. I know from Nanjing what the Olympic atmosphere might be like as it felt like an Olympic Games to me.  It will help me to stay calm and not be afraid of being at an event like the Olympic Games.”

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Noah Lyles (USA)

YOG gold medallist, athletics, Nanjing 2014

“The Olympic Games are always the biggest target. Everybody wants to be an Olympian and everybody wants to win Olympic medals. I'm definitely putting it on my list of things I want to achieve. I want to be Olympic champion, not just the Youth Olympic champion, so going to the YOG just increased my hunger and my drive.”

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Nicola Philippaerts (Belgium)

YOG gold medallist, show jumping, Singapore 2010

“After the first experience at the Youth Olympic Games, you are motivated to go to more Olympic Games. Any Olympic Games is just an unbelievable experience; it is the biggest thing that you can achieve in our sport.

“Looking ahead to Tokyo, we first need to qualify at the European Championships next year and try to get three riders. That will be very difficult. We’re looking already at young horses for Tokyo. Hopefully, I will be there at the start with a good horse. It is the biggest goal to be there.”

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Takeru Kitazono (Japan)

Five-time YOG gold medallist, gymnastics, Buenos Aires 2018

“To be able to reach the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, it was important for me to get real results at the Youth Olympic Games. I believe the significance of the Youth Olympic Games is to take advantage of this experience going into Tokyo 2020. Based on what I learned, I am intending to reflect it in my training in Japan.

“Of course, my main goal is Tokyo 2020, but I see the YOG as a first big step towards the main goal, which is to win gold in Tokyo. If I can win at Buenos Aires 2018, I can win in Tokyo.”

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Sydney Siame (Zambia)

YOG gold medallist, athletics, Nanjing 2014

“Winning gold at the Youth Olympic Games motivated me a lot. I learned so many things like how to handle the pressure at that level. It was a very tough competition, but I managed it, it motivated me and I’m looking forward to the future and Tokyo 2020.

“I hope to reach my peak by Tokyo 2020. I’m still young and my target is to put in a good performance there. It has been my long desire to run at the Olympic Games, so I’m targeting that.”

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Yuka Sato (Japan)

YOG gold medallist, triathlon, Singapore 2010

“Having the Olympic Games in Tokyo is very exciting for me and for all Japanese people. Everyone is very focused on this event and I can take inspiration and power from that. Hopefully I can use that power to qualify for the Games and win a medal.”

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Chad le Clos (South Africa)

Five-time YOG medallist, swimming, Singapore 2010

“I’ve been to Tokyo before, Japan is a very respectful country and I love the people there. I’m looking forward to it.”

“I’ll take a gold medal. I realised in Rio I was looking for more than one gold, having told myself that a gold and a silver wouldn’t be enough. But that was disrespectful; the Games are the best of the best and I have to respect my competitors.

“I can’t promise I’ll win, but I can promise that I’ll be ready. I don’t think anybody is mentally tougher than me. God bless them if they beat me, but I’m not sure they can.”

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Ippei Watanabe (Japan)

YOG gold medallist, swimming, Nanjing 2014

“Before Nanjing started, it had already been announced that Tokyo would host the 2020 Olympic Games, so I had a special feeling about going to the Games. The experiences I had at the YOG and the Olympic Games in Rio really impact my performances now. The victory at the YOG gave me a lot of confidence. After experiencing the YOG, the feeling that I wanted to participate in the Olympic Games became stronger and stronger.

“For the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, I want to improve my world record and Olympic record and win the gold medal; that’s my goal. In order to make it a reality, I’ve been training with all my effort.”

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Hugo Calderano (Brazil)

YOG bronze medallist, table tennis, Nanjing 2014

“Tokyo 2020 is the biggest goal and I will be doing everything to perform there. Of course, there are many tournaments on the way, but they are all part of the path to reach the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. I will just keep going on my way and keep my head focused on my ambitions in the game because I think that’s the way to succeed and beat the top players.”

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Renato Paratore (Italy)

Two-time YOG medallist, golf, Nanjing 2014

“Tokyo 2020 is in my mind. I want to play there – it is a goal that I want to achieve. It will not be easy though because there are many talented Italians. In Rio, Matteo [Manaserro] and Nino [Bertasio] played and they both played very well. We also have the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco, so it will not be easy, but I will do my best.”

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Keely Small (Australia)

YOG gold medallist, athletics, Buenos Aires 2018

“The Olympic Games are a massive goal of mine and hopefully I can make it to Tokyo 2020. The YOG can be a massive stepping-stone towards that, getting the experience of what it’s like to compete with an Olympic atmosphere. I really think I can take a lot from that experience and hopefully make that Tokyo 2020 team.”