The YOG stars who shone brightly in 2020
Olympic.org looks back at some of the most impressive achievements of former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes in 2020.
YOG tennis bronze medallist Tímea Babos and partner Kristina Mladenovic continued their doubles domination in 2020 as they clinched their third and fourth Grand Slam titles as a pairing. The duo kicked off the year by winning January’s Australian Open and then successfully defended their title at the French Open in October. Babos (HUN), who won doubles bronze at the YOG Singapore 2010, and Mladenovic (FRA) were also named Doubles Team of the Year at the WTA Awards in December.
Norway’s Viktor Hovland enjoyed a hugely successful 2020, in which he established himself as one of the leading golfers in the world. The 23-year-old, who lost in a bronze medal playoff at the YOG Nanjing 2014, turned professional only in June 2019, but just two months later had secured a PGA Tour card for 2020. Starting the year ranked 95th in the world, Hovland became the first Norwegian to win on the PGA Tour when he birdied the final hole to clinch the Puerto Rico Open in February, and then secured his second title by again birdieing the closing hole to win the Mayakoba Golf Classic in December. Those victories helped lift him up to 14th in the world rankings and cemented his position as one of the most exciting young talents in the game.
Estonia’s freestyle skiing star Kelly Sildaru kicked off the year by winning slopestyle gold at the Winter YOG Lausanne 2020, and just two weeks later was back on top of a podium at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado (USA). In fact, the 17-year-old topped the podium twice in Aspen – first clinching the superpipe title and then successfully defending her slopestyle crown to secure her fourth X Games gold in the event.
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’s victory over Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin made 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, capping a remarkable rise in 2020.
Slovakian ski racer Petra Vlhová made a winning start to 2020, capturing a World Cup slalom victory ahead of the usually indomitable Mikaela Shiffrin in Zagreb in early January, and then continued clocking up podium finishes as she ended the 2019/20 season with her first small Crystal Globes for topping the slalom and parallel standings. The 25-year-old, who won slalom gold at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012, then began the 2020/21 World Cup season in similarly impressive fashion, making the podium in each of the opening five races, with three victories, to move to the top of the overall standings as she seeks her first big Crystal Globe.
Chinese table tennis star Fan Zhendong enjoyed another world-beating year in 2020 as he continued adding titles to his impressive résumé. After winning the Qatar Open in March to give him his 14th singles title on the ITTF World Tour, Fan returned to action after the enforced break due to the COVID-19 pandemic to clinch his third successive World Cup title in November. The victory was Fan’s fourth in the event, drawing level with the record set by his compatriot Ma Lin, and consolidated the double YOG champion’s position at the top of the men’s game.
Germany’s Jacqueline Lölling won her third overall Crystal Globe in 2020 as she topped the standings at the conclusion of the 2019/20 Skeleton World Cup season. The 2012 YOG champion won races in Lake Placid and Igls – and failed to make the podium at only two events – as she finished ahead of Austria’s Janine Flock to add to the overall titles she won in 2017 and 2018.
Olympic 1,000m champion Suzanne Schulting concluded another impressive Short Track Speed Skating World Cup season at the start of 2020, as she successfully defended her titles in the 1,000m and 1,500m. The 23-year-old, who competed at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012, won five races throughout the season, including a dramatic victory in the final 1,500m in Dordrecht to secure the overall title for a second successive season.
Emily Kristine Pedersen
Danish golfer Emily Kristine Pedersen finished 2020 as the leading player on the Ladies European Tour (LET), having won four titles during the season. After winning the Czech Ladies Open in August, the 24-year-old went on a remarkable run at the end of the year that saw her win three successive events. Pedersen, who competed at the YOG Nanjing 2014, began her incredible treble by winning the inaugural Saudi Ladies International title in November, before clinching the Saudi Ladies Team International the following week. She then captured the season-ending Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España to become the first player since Marie-Laure de Lorenzi in 1989 to win three successive LET events.