India collected 13 medals at the Youth Olympics, leaving powerhouses such as Britain and Germany in the shade. But neither does the haul guarantee safe passage to the senior division, nor did the Indians test themselves against the best. Bharat Sundaresan, Nitin Sharma, Shahid Judge and Shivani Naik run the rule over them by sifting through the lines of age-eligibility and absentee lists to decipher if the big haul is a pointer to a golden future
Manu Bhaker (Shooting)
Unchallenged, without main challenger
Only China’s Jiang Ranxin could have stopped Manu Bhaker from gold. The 18-year-old, ranked 11th in the world, won gold in the team events of the women’s 10m air pistol and 25m standard pistol disciplines at the World Championships in Changwon. Individually, in the air rifle event, she finished a commendable fifth in the finals after equalling the junior world record in qualifying — shooting 583 (compared to Bhaker’s 574). The youngster however, skipped the Youth Olympics since she’s already successfully transitioned into the senior level.
Luck of the draw
In June, at the World Cadet Wrestling Championships, Simran lost 10-0 in the quarterfinals to American grappler Emily Shilson, and then went on to lose the bronze-medal bout to Russia’s Viktoria Aleksandrova. But a change in format at the Youth Olympics brought about a change in fortunes for the Indian teen. The 10 competitors at Buenos Aires were shuffled into two groups, and Simran had the benefit of facing neither of the two medallists at the Worlds — Shilson and bronze medallist Shahana Nazarova of Azerbaijan — in her group. She breezed through the round robin stage, including a walkover, to secure a spot in the final. But then lost again to Shilson in the only competitive bout she fought at the Youth Olympics.
Praveen Chithravel (Triple jump)
As easy as it gets
That Cuban Jordan Diaz was competing meant that only the silver and bronze medals were up for grabs. So consistent and stellar are his credentials that the 17-year-old is the only U-18 athlete in the top 10 seniors rankings this season (fifth), with a personal best of 17.41m. His recent successes includes gold at the
U-20 World Championships in Finland, which added to his U-18 Worlds crown. And now the Youth Olympics gold, with a jump of 17.14m. The second best jumper this season, South Korea’s Kyu Min Yu did not compete. The third best jumper, Nigeria’s Ineh Oritsemeyiwa (who did compete) and fourth-placed Cuban Yusniel Jorrin (who could not compete due to Diaz’s participation) were the other jumpers this year to have crossed 16m. Oritsemeyiwa though couldn’t clear that distance, ensuring Praveen’s 15.84m effort would win him bronze.
Suraj Panwar (5 km walk)
Miles to go
Rising star and U-18 champion Zhang Yao, who’d clocked a record timing of 40:32.06m at the U-20 World Championships in Finland, was overage by 12 months for the Youth Olympics. In his absence, the race to the podium was open and India’s Suraj Panwar helped himself to a silver. The 5km race walk event does not feature at the Worlds level, yet to compare Panwar’s ability with the Chinese, the Indian teen’s best 10km effort is just over two minutes slower than Yao’s.
Jeremy Lalrinnunga (Weightlifting)
Champion in the making
At 15, Jeremy was miles ahead of his competition at the Youth Olympics with a total lift of 274 kgs — his nearest rival managed only 263 kg. The score would have put him in fifth position at the Commonwealth Games, ahead of 18-year-old compatriot Raja Muthupandi, and 11th at the Asian Games. The lift even bettered Pan American junior champion Victor Badur Guemezcel’s 271kg effort. But significant work is in order to transform the young Mizo prodigy into a senior-level medal hope as the competition will only get tougher. A certain 19-year-old Bulgarian, Stilyan Rosenov Grozdev, lifted 293 kg at a European event. Meanwhile, the current senior World Champion, Colombian Mosquera Valencia Francisco Antonio is 10 years older and has lifted 300 kg for the world 62 kg title.
Tushar Mane (Shooting)
Some ground to make
Neither India nor China opted to send their best junior shooters in the 10m air rifle event. Recent gold medallist at the junior event of the Changwon World Championships Hriday Hazarika (627.3) and China’s Fu Gangfeng (625.9) had registered qualifying scores in South Korea that were higher than Mane’s 623.6 at Buenos Aires. In the finals, the only big name the Indian teen had to deal with was Russia’s Grigorii Shamakov, the bronze medallist at the world juniors in Changwon. Shamakov overcame deficits in the third and sixth rounds of the final to score 249.2, 1.7 more than Mane.
Lakshya Sen (Badminton)
A commendable act
The highly-rated player, a former junior World No. 1 no less, did his usual surprise act at the Youth Olympics – beating back Indonesian Ikhsan Rumbay in the quarters and making heavy weather of the top Japanese — lower down the rankings — Kodai Naraoka in the semifinals. However, badminton offered a full-fledged field with Chinese Li Shifeng winning a one-sided final. All the top juniors, including Thai Kunlavut Vitodsarn and European top-ranked junior Arnaud Merkle, competed, making silver a fairly commendable achievement for the 18-year-old Indian who graduates to the seniors next season.
Mehuli Ghosh (Shooting)
Not yet an elite
At 17, Hana Im was already a senior World Champion and the highest-ranked shooter in the world. The wondershot with the Harry Potter glasses became the first shooter to win a quota for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Expectedly, competing at the Youth Olympics was never on the radar for her. Nor was it for 2017 junior World Champion Yingjie Zhu of China, who won silver at the competitive Fort Benning World Cup earlier this year. Missing the age bracket by just a year was 19-year-old and 2018 Munich World Cup gold medallist Lin Ying-Shin of Taiwan. It left a podium finish open for 17-year-old Mehuli Ghosh, who helped herself to silver.
Saurabh Choudhury (Shooting)
Bonafide champion, whose Asian Games gold medal doesn’t seem like a suprise anymore given how consistently he’s been scything through fields — age and stage no bar. The field in Argentina wasn’t fluff by any measure, with South Korean junior record holder Sung Yunho pushing the Indian hard, but being pipped to silver. Missing — because of the one country, one shooter rule — were India’s Arjun Singh Cheema, who won bronze at the Junior Worlds in Changwon, and silver medallist from junior worlds, Korean Lim Hojin. The United States didn’t bother sending their junior record holder Jack Hobson Leverett III, but he was no patch on Saurabh in scores.
Akash Malik (Archery)
Far from the best
The boys’ event threw up a massive upset in just the second round of the competition. Gold medallist at the Berlin World Cup this year, World No 43 and the highest-ranked U-18 archer Chih-Chun Tang of Taiwan was upset by unranked American Trenton Cowles, who went on to claim gold. The event though was more about catapulting the fresh talent into the limelight. Neither did archery powerhouse South Korea nor China send their highest-ranked competitors to the event. India didn’t either, preferring their second-best Akash Malik (ranked 271) to world no 133 Gora Ho, who eventually ended with a silver. Bronze medallist Senna Roos of Belgium, though, is the best from his country.
Tababi Devi (Judo)
The U-18s of the girls’ 44kg had a full field of top-ranked competitors — the top four eventually finished with the four medals on offer. The biggest name arguably was European Cadet Champion Erza Muminoviq of Kosovo, followed by silver medallist Ana Viktorija Puljiz of Croatia — the highest-ranked judoka of that age group. Indian teen Tabiba Devi though got the better of both, beating Muminoviq in the quarterfinals and then ousting Puljiz in the semifinals to ensure at least a silver. In the final though, Tabiba lost out to World No 2 Maria Gimenez of Venezuela, while Muminoviq and Puljiz went through the repechage round to win bronze.
Not Simply The best
Fastest boy chillin’
The world’s fastest U-18 sprinter S Dennis, aged 15, of Jamaica did not turn up for the 100m boys’ event. Nor did top American sprinters Marcellus Moore and Micah Williams — both featuring in the top-5 rankings this year. However, the second fastest, South African Luke Davids, did turn up and stormed to a gold medal in an under-par field that had just three of the top 10 sprinters this year competing. The silver medal went to 61st-ranked Alaba Olukunle Akintola and bronze went to 22nd-ranked Seiryo Ikeda from Nigeria and Japan respectively — not the most fancied nations when it comes to sprinting, save relays. The Jamaican sprinter that did compete though, 8th- ranked Michali Everett, finished fourth. In the men’s 200 m, five Americans have the fastest 20 timings this year. None, however, including World No 2 Joe Fahnbulleh and 5th-placed 16-year-old Sean Burrell, turned up at Buenos Aires. So was it in the girls’ segment. The best two lappers were absent in the 800m as well.
Simones give it a miss
American women picked nine of the 18 medals in Artistic Gymnastics at the Rio Olympics. Two years on, there was no American entry at Buenos Aires among women. Leanne Wong and Sunisa Lee from the US junior team were eligible but weren’t entered, while six from the American senior team who are under 17 years of age didn’t make the eligibility which was 15 years. This included the girl considered the heir apparent to the Olympic champ. Morgan Hurd is 17 and following quickly in the pointed toe-steps of Simone Biles. Already a World Champion in seniors in All-Around at the Montreal Artistic Gymnastics Worlds last year as well as a silver medallist on the Balance Beam, the gymnast, famous for competing in spectacles, was busy prepping for the 2018 edition. Taeja James of Great Britain was another one to miss out.
Youth Olympics not for slammers
A total of 13 junior Grand Slam champions (four men and nine women) opted not to attend the Youth Olympics despite making the January 1, 2000 age cutoff. Instead, they took the time to compete and find their footing on the professional circuit. The biggest name absent though was world no 109 Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, who won the 2016 Junior US Open. The other Junior Grand Slam champions missing from the men’s event were Thiago Wild, Sebastian Korda and Zsombor Piros.
Boy’s champion: Hugo Gaston (World No 1341); absentees: Felix Auger-Aliassime (109), Thiago Wild (474), Sebastian Korda (544) and Zsombor Piros (1275).
Not quite the big splash
Australian Elijah Winnington from Gold Coast won bronze in the 200m freestyle at the World Junior Swimming Championships with a timing of 1:46:81. Despite being born on May 5, 2000, he decided to skip, since he’s already part of the senior team’s CWG team and preparing for Tokyo 2020. For the record, Hungary’s Kristof Milak won the 200m freestyle event with a timing of 1:47:73. Carson Foster, the silver medallist at the Worlds, too wasn’t around.
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