Two years to go: The Youth Olympics stars who could shine at Paris 2024

As Paris celebrates two years to go until it hosts the Olympic Games, we take a look at some of the former Youth Olympic Games athletes who could make a big impact in the French capital in 2024…

By Olympics.com

Shigekix

Japan, breaking

Breaking may be making its first appearance at the Olympic Games, but Japan’s Shigekix will still have some Olympic experiences to draw on when he vies for gold in Paris. The Osaka native was among the B-boys and B-girls who made history at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 – when breaking was first contested at an Olympic event – and he is sure to take confidence from his bronze medal-winning performances in the Argentine capital.

Since competing in the YOG, Shigekix has developed into a world-class B-boy, becoming the youngest ever winner of the Red Bull BC One World Final in 2020 and finishing third at the IWGA World Games in July this year. With breaking set to bring a fun and exciting new dynamic to the Olympic stage in 2024, Shigekix could emerge as one of the biggest stars in Paris.

Duda and Ana Patrícia

Brazil, beach volleyball

Dynamic duo Duda and Ana Patrícia have now been reunited at senior level, after dominating the junior beach volleyball circuit. The Brazilians teamed up to win Youth Olympic gold at Nanjing 2014 and then went on to win successive under-21 world titles in 2016 and 2017. They then enjoyed success and multiple titles on the FIVB World Tour with other partners – Duda with 2016 Olympic silver medallist Ágatha Bednarczuk and Ana Patrícia with Rebecca Cavalcanti – before joining up again for the 2022 season. That decision certainly seems to have paid off, with the pair winning the 2022 world title together in June. The next step will be to repeat their YOG success in Paris in 2024.

Atthaya Thitikul

Thailand, golf

Few players have made as big an impact in the golfing world over the last year as Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul.

Already the youngest player ever to win a professional golf tournament, when she won the 2017 Ladies European Thailand Championship at the age of just 14, Thitikul has gone from strength to strength since turning pro in 2020.

After earning her card for the 2022 LPGA Tour by finishing third at qualifying school at the end of last year, the 19-year-old then won her first LPGA tournament in just her fifth start as a tour member. Thitikul – who shone at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 with two closing birdies to clinch gold alongside Vanchai Luangnitikul in the mixed team event – has since risen as high as fourth in the world rankings and established herself as one of the brightest young prospects in golf. She missed out on a place at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 due to the strength of the Thai team, which featured major winners Ariya Jutanugarn and Patty Tavatanakit, but now looks set to play a starring role in Paris.

Atthaya Thitikul
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Thomas Ceccon

Italy, swimming

Italian swimmer Thomas Ceccon won the 50m freestyle title and four other medals at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, and is now making a similarly big splash on the senior stage.

The 21-year-old smashed the 100m backstroke world record by a quarter of a second as this year’s FINA World Aquatics Championships, clinching gold ahead of the USA’s 2016 Olympic champion Ryan Murphy, and was also part of the Italian quartet than topped the podium in the 4x100m medley. Ceccon also gained valuable experience at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where he won two relay medals as part of the Italian team and, following his recent form, few would be surprised to see him go on to secure individual honours at Paris 2024.

Thomas Ceccon
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Jordan Díaz

Spain, athletics

Rising triple jump talent Jordan Díaz missed the recent World Athletics Championships in Oregon as he is still finalising his switch of allegiance from Cuba to Spain, but the 21-year-old leapt a world-leading 17.87m earlier this year.

Díaz won the Youth Olympic title in Buenos Aires in 2018 with a leap of 17.14m, and then went on to take silver at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima and finish eighth at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha. Now training under legendary long jumper Iván Pedroso in Spain, his 17.87m leap in June helped secure the Spanish national title and moved him to 13th on the world all-time list. If he continues his impressive development, Díaz is sure to be among the main gold medal contenders at Paris 2024.

Jordan Díaz
Picture by Marcelo Endelli

Wang Zhi Yi

China, badminton

Wang Zhi Yi, who won silver at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, clinched the biggest title of her blossoming career earlier this year, when she won gold at the 2022 Asian Badminton Championships in Manila. The 22-year-old defeated 2021 world champion and 2014 YOG silver medallist Akane Yamaguchi in the final, coming back from a set down to win 15-21, 21-13, 21-19. It was the latest impressive result for Wang, who has already won three BWF World Tour titles and risen to 11th in the world rankings. She will now have dreams of emulating compatriot Chen Yufei, who won the Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

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