17 Jul 2019
The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) have been providing a springboard for aspiring aquatics stars since 2010. As the 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships are underway in Gwangju (Republic of Korea), we look at some athletes who are now making a splash on the global stage after shining at the YOG.
Chad le Clos
The South African swimmer won five medals in the pool at the YOG Singapore 2010 – including gold in the 200m medley – to establish himself as a potential star for the future. And so it proved, with Le Clos making waves at the Olympic Games London 2012 as he edged out two-time defending champion Michael Phelps to claim gold in the 200m butterfly. Le Clos also won silver in the 100m butterfly to cap an incredible Olympic debut for the then 20-year-old, who just two years earlier had been one of the stars of the 2010 YOG. His success in London has been followed by a succession of world titles, as well as two further silver medals at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Now aged 27, the 2018 FINA Male Swimmer of the Year will head to Gwangju as the defending champion in the 200m butterfly
China’s Qiu Bo was one of the breakout stars of the YOG Singapore 2010, winning gold in both the men’s 3m springboard and 10m platform. After success at the YOG, the Chinese prodigy then went on to star for his country at the 2011 World Championships, winning two gold medals, and at the Olympic Games London 2012, where he won silver in the 10m platform. Further individual world titles followed in 2013 and 2015, while he has since enjoyed success in the team event, winning gold at the 2018 FINA Diving World Cup alongside Chen Yiwen. In Gwangju, he will partner another YOG standout in the team event, as he pairs up with three-time Buenos Aires 2018 gold medallist Lin Shan.
After competing at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 at the age of just 15, when she was the youngest member of the Hungarian squad, Boglárka Kapás went on to star at the YOG Singapore 2010, winning gold in both the 200m butterfly and 400m freestyle, as well as silver in the 200m freestyle. She has since gone on to enjoy great success on the senior stage, winning 800m freestyle bronze and the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and multiple European titles, as well as setting numerous national records.
At the YOG Nanjing 2014, Trinidad and Tobago’s Dylan Carter clinched a pair of medals in the pool, winning silver in the 50m butterfly and bronze in the 50m freestyle. Since then, he has successfully transitioned to the senior ranks, claiming a creditable fourth place in the 100m freestyle at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, as well as bronze in the 50m butterfly at the 2018 FINA Short Course World Championships.
After making her Olympic debut at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 as a 15-year-old, finishing 27th in the 10m platform, Malaysia’s Pandelela Rinong went to the YOG Singapore 2010 and won two silver medals. Honoured as her country’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony of London 2012, Rinong went on to win bronze in the 10m platform, becoming the first female Malaysian athlete to win an Olympic medal. She then added silver to her growing collection of medals at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. After bronze medals at the 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2017 World Championships, the 26-year-old will be hoping to step on the podium again in Gwangju.
One of the champions of the pool at the YOG Nanjing 2014, Matheus Santana made waves throughout the Games as he set a world junior record in winning the 100m freestyle and added a silver medal in the 50m freestyle. The 23-year-old has shown resilience and determination in abundance after his battle with diabetes initially saw him miss out on selection for the Brazilian national swimming team, before winning a place at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Now aged 23, he has continued to improve and swam his way to two bronze medals at the FINA Short Course World Championships in Hangzhou (China) last year.
Since winning six medals at the YOG Singapore 2010, Australian swimmer Emma McKeon has been collecting medals at an electrifying pace that almost matches her world-class speed in the pool. The 25-year-old was Australia’s most decorated swimmer at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 – winning a gold, two silvers and a bronze – and at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest (Hungary), where she won a further six medals, becoming the first Australian woman to win so many at a single World Championships. After silver medals in the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly in Budapest, she will be looking to go one better in Gwangju.