With a host of major sporting events on the calendar for 2021, Tokyo 2020 highlights some former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) stars who could shine at the next Games
Australian swimmer Kaylee McKeown was in outstanding form at the end of 2020, breaking the world short-course record for the 200m backstroke and clocking the second-fastest time in history for the 100m backstroke, and she now looks set to enjoy a big year in 2021. The 19-year-old, who won four medals at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, had already made a big splash at elite level by winning silver in the 200m backstroke at the 2019 World Championships, and she is now proving to be one of the most exciting prospects in swimming.
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Rising badminton star Anthony Ginting began 2020 by winning the Indonesia Masters in January to give him his third BWF World Tour title, and was then part of the Indonesian team that triumphed at the Asia Team Championships in February. Having climbed to a career high of third in the world rankings, he saw his season brought to a halt by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the YOG Nanjing 2014 bronze medallist will be aiming to pick up where he left off in 2021, as he eyes an Olympic debut in Tokyo.
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The French swimmer has already enjoyed an excellent career that includes a silver medal in the Rio 2016 4x100m relay, but in 2010 he was competing in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Mehdy Metella won three medals during those Games, including a gold in the 100m freestyle, silver in the 4x100m medley relay and bronze in the 4x100m freestyle mixed event. After injuring his shoulder in late 2019, it looked as if his Olympic dreams were over, but the postponement of the Games has given him a second chance. He returned to the pool for the French Championships last December, where he won the 100m butterfly title in a time of 52.86s.
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YOG Nanjing 2014 beach volleyball champion Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa has gone from strength to strength since partnering with Olympic silver medallist and former world champion Ágatha Bednarczuk in 2017, and the pair will be among the favourites for gold at this year’s Olympic Games. Together, they won the prestigious FIVB World Tour Finals in Hamburg (Germany) in 2018, and also clinched victory in the Olympic test event in Tokyo in 2019. While the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted their 2020 season, they still managed to claim gold at the 2020 King of the Court tournament in Utrecht (Netherlands) in September, and came out on top on the Brazilian circuit, winning three of the five events, meaning they will start 2021 on a high.
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Having won two PGA Tour events and risen to 14th in the world rankings during the course of 2020, Norwegian golfer Viktor Hovland looks well placed to challenge for even greater honours in 2021. The 23-year-old will be aiming for a maiden major title when he tees it up at the Masters in April – having been crowned low amateur at the 2019 tournament – while he will also be expected to challenge at the PGA Championship in May, the US Open in June and the Open Championship in July before arriving in Tokyo for the Olympic Games. Hovland, who is also set to make a Ryder Cup debut in September as part of the European team, came close to winning a medal at the YOG Nanjing 2014 – losing in a bronze-medal playoff – but has come a long way since then and is likely to continue his impressive progression in 2021.
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Dutch hockey star Frédérique Matla finished 2020 in goalscoring form in the FIH Pro League, finding the net in victories over Great Britain in October and Belgium in November. With the Netherlands sitting atop the standings with seven wins from eight games, the 24-year-old, who won silver with the Dutch team at the YOG Nanjing 2014, could enjoy Pro League and Olympic success in 2021.
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With his 2020 season disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, triple jumper Jordan Díaz will be looking to recapture his 2019 form when he returns to competition this year. The Cuban’s gold medal-winning leap of 17.14m at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 would have been enough to clinch fourth place in the Rio 2016 Olympic final, and in 2019 he extended his personal best to 17.49m – just 1cm shy of Volker Mai's world junior record, which was set way back in 1985. If he can regain that form in 2021, he is likely to challenge for the Olympic podium in Tokyo.
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Polish tennis star Iga Świątek will be looking to follow up a history-making 2020 when she returns to the court this year. The 19-year-old’s triumph at October’s French Open made her the first Polish tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles title, while her victory over Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the final also 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, who won doubles gold alongside Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, climbed to a career high of 17th in the women’s world rankings as a result of her French Open triumph, and will now look to continue her rapid rise at next month’s Australian Open, while she will also hope to follow in the footsteps of her Olympian father Tomasz by competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
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