Archive for September, 2014

Equestrian: team gold for Europe, individual title for Fraser

September 30th, 2014

Europe rule the world

The 30 entrants for the equestrian events at Nanjing 2014 were each allocated a horse provided by the YOG Organising Committee, based on lots, with riders and their mounts competing together in both the international and individual events, which each comprised two rounds.

The race for the medals at the Xinzhuang Equestrian Venue began on Tuesday 19 August with the first round of the six-team international competition, with each team made up of five riders and representing a continent, and only the three lowest scores counting towards their overall points totals.

Featuring Matias Alvaro (ITA), Michael Duffy (IRL), Jake Saywell (GBR), Filip Agren (SWE) and Lisa Nooren (NED), the Europe team took the first-day lead with zero faults. South America, represented by Francisco Calvelo Martinez (URU), Antoine Porte (CHI), Valeria Maria Caballero (PAR), Martina Campi (ARG) and Bianca De Souza Rodrigues (BRA), were in second on four faults. Completing the top three, a further four points behind, were the North America team of Polly Serpell (CAY), Macarena Chiriboga Granja (ECU), Sabrina Rivera Mesa (ESA), Stefanie Brand (GUA) and Maria Gabriela Brugal (DOM).

Day two boiled down to a battle for gold between the Europeans and the South Americans, with both teams chalking up clear round after clear round to keep the pressure on each other. The duel was decided when Filip Agren, Europe’s third rider of the day, went clear on Abel, leaving South America to settle for the silver and North America the bronze, as all three teams ended the day without incurring a single fault.

“Watching Filip go clear was something else. I raised my fist in the air and went mad,” recalled Michael Duffy, who was in flawless form on Commander. “I’ve been dreaming of an Olympic medal all my life and to win one at the age of 17 is just amazing. I am so lucky.”

“I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’m so excited,” said Matias Alvaro, who himself had two clear rounds on Montelini. “I dreamed of coming to the Youth Olympic Games when I was a very young boy, and here we are with the gold.”

A bronze medallist with the North America team, Maria Gabriela Brugal said: “I’ve never won a medal before. It’s incredible to do it with all my new friends. I am so happy.”

Kiwi Fraser jumps for joy

Emotional but overjoyed, New Zealand’s Emily Fraser (NZL) choked back the tears after winning a thrilling jump-off to take the individual show jumping gold medal.

“I just hugged my horse, I was so excited, and I burst into tears,” said the young Kiwi. “I’ve never cried this much but I’m the happiest person alive.”

Cheered on by friends and family, Fraser kept her emotions in check to become the first rider to go clear twice.

She then looked on as Sabrina Rivera Meza (ESA), Martina Campi (ARG) and Australia’s Jake Hunter followed suit, setting up a jump-off in which one of the four athletes would go away empty-handed.

The unfortunate odd one out was Rivera Meza, who saw her medal hopes disappear when double-faulting on Con-Zero.

Partnering Exilio, Fraser said: “I knew one person was going to be the unlucky one and I just hoped it wouldn’t be me. It was really nerve-racking. I kept my head and tried to handle my nerves. I just rode for my life.”

Fraser was the first to go in the jump-off and went clear again in a solid if unspectacular time of 39.75 seconds. It proved too fast for Campi, however. Riding Darina, the Argentinian was 0.20 seconds slower in completing her clear round.

The gold was Fraser’s when Hunter incurred a four-point penalty for dislodging a bar, leaving him with the silver. The Australian was nevertheless delighted with his performance on For The Star and now plans to move to Europe “to fly the Australian flag there”.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said afterwards. “My horse jumped fantastically. She’s only young and to make the jump-off on a really tough track is fantastic. In the jump-off she got a bit tired but she gave it everything she had.”

Europe’s riders had been expected to figure strongly after winning the international team competition earlier in the week. In the end, however, Ireland’s Michael Duffy was the only European among the nine jumpers to go clear in the first round.

That group included Hong Kong, China’s Chiang Lennard, on DJ. Despite picking up eight faults in the second round, he praised the organisers for putting together a challenging course.

“It was a technical course. The jumps were a decent height and for some horses it was difficult,” said Chiang, who is also heading to Europe to pursue his career. “But there were only eight jumps and it was up to standard. It shouldn’t be too easy at this level.”

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Singapore 2010 YOG, Youth Games

‘I want to kiss and hug every volunteer,’ says Brazilian gymnastics icon Daiane dos Santos

September 29th, 2014

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Rio 2016

Nanjing 2014 crowns queens of the pool

September 28th, 2014

Nguyen Thi Anh takes YOG curtain-raiser

On 17 August, the opening day of swimming competition at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, Vien Nguyen Thi Anh (VIE) dominated the first medal race, the 200m individual medley. The 17-year-old, who had only managed to record the fifth fastest time in qualifying, led from start to finish, leaving her more favoured rivals to battle it out for the remaining spots on the podium.

In the end, it was Siobhan Haughey (HKG) and Meghan Small (USA) who claimed the silver and bronze medals respectively. “I knew that I would have to swim fast to win gold tonight, so I swam, swam and swam some more,” joked the victorious Asian.

The day’s second final saw China reign supreme in the 4x100m mixed freestyle relay, but only after a rousing third-leg fight-back initiated by Yu Hexin, who had already performed a similar rescue job in the heats. Shen Duo, swimming the anchor leg, resolutely held onto the lead to finish in 3:27.02 and win her first medal of the Games. Brazil touched the wall 4.53 seconds later, while Australia took bronze.

Szilagyi strikes gold

On 18 August, Liliana Szilagyi kickstarted what would be a hugely successful competition for Hungary by claiming the 200m butterfly title. Her triumph was particularly entertaining for the fans at the Natatorium due to her memorable celebratory dance.

“I said this morning that today would belong to Hungary, and I was right,” said Szilagyi, referring to the positive results achieved by her male compatriots that same evening. “I promised myself that I’d win a gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games, and that’s why I’m so incredibly happy right now. I did it. And that won’t be the last Hungarian swimming medal, I can promise you that.”

Elsewhere, Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, the Olympic 100m breaststroke champion at London 2012, added another gold to her collection in the 50m breaststroke, overcoming the challenges of Germany’s Julia Willers and Hungary’s Anna Sztankovics, whose bronze medal confirmed her team-mate’s earlier prediction.

The most thrilling showdown of the evening was undoubtedly in the 100m backstroke, where Clara Smiddy (USA) arrived 1/100th of a second ahead of Jessica Fullalove (GBR), with Bobbi Gichard (NZL) a further 2/100ths behind.

Afterwards, the American admitted that she did not initially realise that she had won. “As I approached the wall, there was water everywhere and I had no idea where I was placed,” she recalled. “When I saw my number come up, I had trouble connecting it with my name. I wasn’t sure, so I looked over towards my team, and it was only then that I thought, ‘Yes!’.”

Back in the pool after the medal ceremony, Fullalove picked up her second silver in the space of 15 minutes in the 4x100m medley relay as she and her three British team-mates followed behind the powerful Chinese quartet onto the podium. Australian came third. Placed third as she commenced her anchor leg, Shen Duo propelled the host nation into the lead before bagging her second gold medal of the YOG.

Italians to the fore

On 19 August a dramatic evening at the Natatorium began with the women’s 800m freestyle. In an unusual quirk, Simona Quadarella (ITA) emerged victorious from the ‘slow heat’, but still logged a faster time (8:35.39, a personal best) than Spain’s Jimena Perez Blanco (8:36.95), who came out on top of the ‘fast heat’, and Johanna Evans (8:39.75) of the Bahamas.

Quadarella subsequently watched on in amazement as that time proved sufficient for top spot on the podium. “I’m very happy,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that I’d won, and when it dawned on me, I screamed for joy.”
There was even more suspense in the 200m backstroke final, as Ambra Esposito (ITA) and Hannah Moore (USA) posted exactly the same time (2:10.42) to share the gold medal. Esposito, who had surged to the front courtesy of a late comeback, stated after the race that she did not know if Moore was ahead or behind her.

“I just knew that I had to swim as quickly as I could and stay strong,” she said, jokily flexing her muscles. “It’s a bit of an odd feeling to share a medal, but I’m still really pleased – it’s a gold medal, after all.

As for Moore, her voice betrayed her feelings of relief, as she feared that her chance had come and gone. “It’s clear to me that I headed off too fast because my legs were burning in the last 50 metres. Once I touched the wall, I just thought, ‘My goodness, I lost’,” she admitted.

“This is the greatest moment of my life, though. All my team-mates were taking photos. I’m a big fan of social networks, so I’m sure that I’ll be spending some time online tonight.”

Last but not least, the final of the 100m freestyle saw home favourite Shen Duo prevail in 53.84, ahead of Siobhan Haughey (54.61) and Chinese compatriot Qiu Yuhan (54.66), increasing her medal haul to three in three days. “Today it was just me, all alone, without my team-mates, although they were present and gave me great support,” she said.

“There’s more pressure involved in winning an individual event, but you’re more motivated. I’m extremely pleased. I almost cried when the national anthem played!”

Shen Duo goes from strength to strength

Rozaliya Nasretdinova got the fourth evening of swimming off to a solid start on 20 August, delivering Russia’s first women’s swimming gold medal in the 50m butterfly.

Her record time of 26.26 put paid to the hopes of Svenja Stoffel (SUI) and Nastja Govesek (SLO), who were separated by just 8/100ths of a second.

Meanwhile local favourite Shen Duo continued her remarkable run in Nanjing, clinching her fourth Youth Olympic title in the final of the 200m freestyle after an arduous duel with her compatriot Qiu Yuhan, who had to settle for silver. Australia’s Brianna Throssell took the bronze.

Lithuania’s Meilutyte triumphed in the 100m breaststroke in 1:05.39, a good two seconds ahead of silver medallist He Yun (CHN). Meilutyte had already landed a gold medal in the same event at the Olympic Winter Games in London two years earlier at the age of 15.

“I’m completely delighted to have swum the race in 1:05,” she declared. “I would have preferred 1:04, but it’s still a great result. I’ve really been trying to push myself to the limit.”

De Waard and hosts shine brightly

In the final of the 50m backstroke on 21 August, Maaike De Waard (NED) held off a late charge from Great Britain’s Fullalove and Gabrielle Fa’amausili (NZL), who had clocked the best time of the heats but had to eventually content herself with bronze after a slow start. Fullalove’s silver was her third of the Games.

A joyful De Waard admitted post-race that what she was most looking forward to was a welcome holiday. “It’s been a long, long season, but this gold medal is a great way to bring it to a close,” said the 17-year-old, who trains 25 hours per week before and after school. “I didn’t expect it – it’s quite wonderful.”

The 4x100m medley relay capped off the night, with the robust Chinese foursome registering a winning time of 3:41.19, outpacing Russia (3:42.39) and Australia (3:44.44). For Shen Duo, who swam the anchor leg, it meant fifth gold at the Games.

Szilagy wins again

Liliana Szilagyi provided another reason for Hungary to celebrate on the final day of swimming in Nanjing by capturing gold in the 100m butterfly.

In a repeat of the 200m result, the excitable swimmer again saw off Zhang Yufei and Brianna Throssell to top the podium. The latter’s bronze medal was her seventh of the Games, which she earned in both butterfly events, the 200m freestyle, and as part of the Australian team for the four relay events.

Szilagyi continued to keep the Natatorium public amused with her idiosyncratic poolside dance routine, which debuted on Monday following her 200m butterfly victory, although her reaction was a little more muted this time around.

“After the 200m, I got carried away by the atmosphere and acted spontaneously, but today I was a bit calmer,” she noted. “But I’m just as happy as before.”

Aged 17, the Budapest native has aquatic sport in her genes – her grandfather, Deszo Gyarmati, was a three-time Olympic water polo champion, while her father, Zoltan Szilagyi, competed in three Olympic Games as a freestyle swimmer.

It was her mother that occupied Szilagyi’s thoughts after the race, however. “She won’t be able to stop crying, but she’ll be so happy that I’m living my dream,” she said. Throssell, meanwhile, was overjoyed to have amassed seven bronze medals.

“To get a bronze, to be the third fastest woman in the world, is quite simply a wonderful feeling– I’m walking on air!” she exclaimed.

Six of the best for Shen Duo

Another woman to enjoy multiple successes was Hannah Moore, whose fine 400m freestyle performance took her gold medal count in Nanjing to two. In a tight contest, Moore (4:11.05), who had turned 18 that day, pipped Thailand’s Sarisa Suwannachet (4:11.23) and Germany’s Kathrin Demler (4:11.25) at the wall.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present,” said the future University of Michigan student. “I wasn’t expecting it, and it’s just fantastic.”

In the remaining individual events, Ukraine’s Anastasiya Malyavina secured gold in the 200m breaststroke, while the Russian pair of Rozaliya Nasretdinova and Daria Ustinova finished first and third in the 50m freestyle, in which Australia’s Ami Matsuo also snatched silver. It was a second title of the Games for Nasretdinova, who was visibly proud to share the podium with her team-mate.

“It’s absolutely brilliant that we were both there,” said the victor. “Winning gold is incredible, but I’m aware that it’s still the Youth Olympic Games, and that I need to aim much higher in my career.”

Finally, it fell to the most successful athlete of Nanjing 2014, Shen Duo, to bring the curtain down on the Games in the same manner that she began them, contributing to a formidable Chinese 4x100m mixed medley relay team that overpowered Russia and Australia in a world junior record time of 3:49.33. In doing so, the new fan favourite expanded her gold medal haul to six.

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Singapore 2010 YOG, Youth Games

Colombia women’s football team book their place at Rio 2016 Olympic Games

September 28th, 2014

Buenos Aires 2018 vows to bring sport to the inner city

September 28th, 2014

Speaking after the meetings concluding today, IOC Coordination Commission Chair Frank Fredericks said; “Under the expert guidance of CEO Leandro Larrosa, the organisers have really understood the true spirit of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) – to put young people at its heart. Thanks to the close cooperation Buenos Aires 2018 has with the all levels of government and the Argentinian Olympic Committee (AOC), the organization has made impressive headway with strong foundation plans already underway. With its world-famous passion for sport and culture, we truly believe that Buenos Aires will deliver a phenomenal Youth Olympic Games.”

Significant progress has been made on the venue master plan with a proposed four-cluster concept grouping the sports in a compact framework – all of which the Coordination Commission visited over the course of the two-day meetings. To give a taste of the vibrant culture and spirit of the city, Buenos Aires 2018 has put forward a festival-style concept to feature in each cluster for all spectators to experience. Taking inspiration from the ‘Sports Lab’ inaugurated at Nanjing 2014, these festivals will not only showcase and offer sporting experiences to the visitors, but will also provide family entertainment and cultural activities.

Three major development projects will get underway in 2015 including tenders out for the athletics and aquatic venues and the construction of the Youth Olympic Village (YOV) which will begin early next year. The YOV will be situated in the south of the city, an area of Buenos Aires targeted by the local government in need of urban development. From the YOV, 65 percent of the athletes will be able to walk to their competition venues. In addition, with the recent launch of the city’s metro-bus link, excellent transport links are already in place which will provide fast connections around the city and between venue clusters.

In the true essence of the YOG, the local organising committee are involving young people in all levels of the organization; including an ‘Athlete Commission’ and a newly established ‘Youth Commission’ – a group of young consultants chosen by the AOC from local schools and universities – and the employees within BAYOGOC from junior to director level. All functional areas are now operational and a modest 20 members of staff have been recruited. 

In line with their mission to bring sport to the city, many of the 330 local sports clubs within Buenos Aires will be called upon to help with the organization of the Games and to provide training facilities for the athletes. In addition, Buenos Aires 2018 have already made fast progress by not only discussing the project with the National Federations, but using the time in Nanjing this summer to meet with almost all of the International Federations to present their preliminary proposals for sport competitions.

Nationwide, an engagement programme is already being rolled out to target 1.5 million young people to both identify talent and encourage participation in sports launched by the high performance sports body of Argentina.

Leandro Larrosa, CEO of Buenos Aires 2018 commented on the preparations; “This is a life changing project, not only for young athletes, but for future generations in Argentina and we are happy in the knowledge that the IOC Coordination Commission will be by our side to guide us throughout this exciting process.  There is a great social legacy we want to achieve with this Games, we want to get all our kids into sport and inspire kids around the world to do the same.”  He continued, “This last few days working with the IOC has been a great learning curve and has energized the team to deliver our exciting project.”

The six-person IOC Coordination Commission headed by Fredericks is made up of several Olympians including Danka Bartekova, the youngest IOC Member and Young Ambassador from the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010.


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Singapore 2010 YOG, Youth Games

Beach volleyball: Brazil and Russia take the spoils

September 26th, 2014

Volleyball appeared on the programme at Singapore 2010 in its traditional indoor, six-a-side format. At Nanjing 2014, however, it was the turn of beach volleyball to make its YOG debut, with a total of 144 male and female players taking to the sand at the city’s Youth Olympic Sports Park.

Both the men’s and women’s tournaments began with a group phase comprising six pools of six teams each. The top four sides in each group then advanced to the knockout phase, with the eight best qualifiers going straight into the round of 16. The remaining 16 qualifiers entered an elimination round featuring eight ties, the winners of which also progressed to the last 16.

In total, there were 228 matches (114 in each tournament) took place ahead of the women’s and men’s finals, which were played on consecutive days.

Brazilian women make history

Brazilian pairing Eduarda Santos Lisboa and Ana Patricia Silva Ramos claimed the first beach volleyball gold medal ever awarded at the Youth Olympic Games, beating Canadian twins Megan and Nicole McNamara 2-1 (17-21, 21-13, 16-14) in the women’s final.

After losing the opening set – the only one they conceded in the whole tournament – the Brazilians came back strongly to win the second, thanks to Silva Ramos’ impressive spiking, and clinched the decisive set third courtesy of a Santos Lisboa spike.

“It’s pure emotion,” said Silva Ramos, on the point of tears, afterwards. “It is the happiest moment in my life. I really could not imagine all of this. It’s the dream of any athlete. ‘Dream’ is the only word that can describe what happened to us now.”

Echoing her partner’s feelings, Santos Lisboa said: “We made it to the Youth Olympics, conquered the podium. There are no words to describe all of this.

“To come here is a dream, imagine [how it is] to win it, and we managed to do this, by making one step at a time and by staying together,” added the 16-year-old. “I can’t explain what I feel now because it’s a very strong feeling I have in my chest.”

Though they trained together for only six months, the Brazilians were able to build up quite a bond, as Silva Ramos explained: “I think the key factor was union at the end of the match, because at the end we regrouped and managed to take the game.

“We knew the opponents were really good because they took the podium at the World Championships. We knew it would be a difficult game. We had a few problems in the first set, but we reacted well and managed to control the game.”

Santos Lisboa added: “We were a bit separated in the first set but knew we wouldn’t win if we didn’t unite. So I spoke to her [Silva Ramos] and we came together as a team.”

Despite missing out on gold, the McNamara twins, who beat Germany’s Lisa Arnholdt and Sarah Schneider 2-0 in the semi-finals, were delighted with their efforts.

“In the second set we got really tense and nervous but then in the timeout we regrouped,” said Nicole. “In the third set we decided to just try and have fun and try our best.”

“I’m really proud of how we played,” Megan commented. “We knew we would have to play our very best to beat them and they played well too, so we are really happy with the result.”

Arnholdt and Schneider needed just two sets to beat Russia’s Nadezda Makroguzova and Daria Rudykh (21-14, 27-25) to clinch the bronze medal.

“We played with the heart, with the soul and had a lot of fun,” said Arnholdt, explaining the key to their victory.

Russian pair win gold and settle a score

Knocked out by Venezuela’s Jose Gregorio Gomez and Rolando Hernandez in the quarter-finals of the recent World Under-19 Championship in Portugal, Russia’s Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Artem Iarzutkin gained the sweetest revenge possible in Nanjing by beating the South American pair to the gold medal in the men’s beach volleyball competition.

Taller than their opponents and playing superior beach volleyball, the Russians eased to a 2-0 win (21-12, 21-13) to land the first YOG men’s title in the sport.

“We played strong. Our coach gave us a good strategy for the match because we lost to this team three weeks ago. So today we played very good on the block and defence,” reflected Stoyanovskiy after the final.

“We didn’t win medals in the previous two championships, so that was a maximum goal to win, especially here on the Olympic stage,” added Iarzutkin.

Though they came off second best, the Venezuelans were more than happy to improve on the bronze medal they took home from the Under-19 World Championships.

“We get out of the final with a loss, but with our heads held high,” mused Hernandez, while his team-mate Gomez added: “Winning this silver medal is a great experience, we always dreamed about it, and finally we have it in our hands. We lost the final, but we enjoyed it all.”

Argentina’s Santiago Karim Aulisi and Leandro Nicolas Aveiro saw off Finland’s Miro Maattanen and Santeri Siren in three sets (21-10, 12-21, 15-12) to win the bronze.

“After losing the semi-final we told each other to just keep going and really try hard,” said Aulisi, while Aveiro commented: “We gave all we had and we are so happy about this.”

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Singapore 2010 YOG, Youth Games

USA women’s basketball team aiming to match the men by booking Rio 2016 spot

September 25th, 2014

Wrestling: New stars of the mat emerge in Nanjing

September 25th, 2014

Russia kicks off with a double

Devoted to the Greco-Roman style, the opening day of the wrestling competition saw Russia’s Arslan Zubairov conjure up a remarkable comeback to claim gold in the 58kg final. Trailing 4-2 to Armenia’s Zaven Mikaelyan (ARM), Zubairov threw three consecutive tosses, each worth four points, to take an unassailable 10-point lead.

“I remained calm [when I fell behind] because I knew I still had enough time,” said the winner afterwards. “My coaches have taught me not to get nervous.”

Taking the bronze behind Mikaelyan was Keramat Abdevali of Iran.

In the 85kg final, Mark Bemalian earned another gold for Russia, defending an early lead to beat Bulgaria’s Kiril Milov 9-6.

“I don’t remember right now what happened during the match,” Bemalian said. “The most important thing right now is that I won.”

The bronze medal went to Egypt’s Ahmed Ahmed.

Uzbekistan’s Ilkhom Bakhromov won a surprise gold in the 50kg category, beating Azeribaijan’s Jabbar Najafov in a tense final.

Down 6-5 with 30 seconds remaining, Najafov appeared to score on a takedown, which would have put him a point ahead. But following a review prompted by a challenge from Bakhromov’s coach, the points were chalked off, leaving a grateful Bakhromov the winner.

“The Azerbaijani was the favourite so it was not easy for me,” said the gold-medallist. “But my coaches supported me and gave me advice and that helped me.”

Iran’s Mohammadreza Aghaniachari won the bronze to complete the podium.

In the 42kg gold-medal bout, Korea DPR’s Ri Seung scored late on with an escape from the ground to beat Fatih Aslan of Turkey 9-6, with the bronze going to Oleksii Masyk of Ukraine.

Finally, Islambek Dadov of Azerbaijan took the spoils in the 69kg division, defeating USA’s Mason Manville in a final decided by a lone one-point toss. Kazakhstan’s Yevgeniy Polivadov won the bronze.

Bullen and Shisterova steal the show

The women’s freestyle wrestling programme at Nanjing 2014 ended in frantic style, with the last two gold-medal bouts being decided in double quick time.

Grace Jacob Bullen of Norway set the tone by winning the penultimate final, in the 60kg category, in only 71 seconds, though that time was positively sluggish compared to the 35 seconds Russia’s Daria Shisterova needed to defeat Turkey’s Tugba Kilic in the battle for 70kg freestyle gold.

“I cannot believe it yet that I’m the champion. It happened so fast,” said Shisterova, who initially took up the Russian martial art of sambo before switching to wrestling three years ago.

Despite her rapid win, the 17-year-old Russian later admitted she had strayed slightly from her pre-bout instructions: “My coach said fight your own fight. Do not rush. Do it step by step.”

Tipped for the title before the YOG, Poland’s world cadet silver medallist Natalia Strzalka recovered from defeat in the qualifying pool to claim the bronze.

In the 60kg final, meanwhile, the powerful Bullen made short work of China’s Pei Xingru. Surging into a 4-0 lead in the opening minute, the 17-year-old world and European cadet champion tossed her less experienced opponent to win 10-0.

“It’s amazing. I’m really pleased with what I’ve done, because it was difficult to get the audience to be with me, in China, competing against someone from China”, said Bullen, who left her native Sudan for Norway at the age of five.

After losing to Bullen in the preliminaries, France’s Koumba Larroque went on to win the bronze.

In the 52kg class final, leading contender and two-time world cadet champion Mayu Mukaida of Japan beat Azerbaijan’s Leyla Gurbanova 9-3. “It was so difficult to control my nerves for this final match,” admitted the Japanese wrestler afterwards.

Taking the bronze behind Gurbanova was Ukraine’s Olena Kremzer.

Kim Sonhyang of Korea DPR withstood a strong comeback from Mongolia’s Dulguun Bolormaa to win an intensely competitive 46kg final and secure her country’s second wrestling gold of Nanjing 2014.

The 17-year-old Kim moved into an 8-0 lead in the first period but had to dig deep to fend off her determined opponent, eventually winning 9-5.

Moldova’s Tatiana Doncila collected the bronze.

Russia and Azerbaijan go out on a high

Russia and Azerbaijan underlined their status as wrestling’s dominant forces on the last day of competition in Nanjing, with the men’s freestyle medal bouts bringing the curtain down at the Longjiang Gymnasium.

Facing USA’s Cade Olivas in the 46kg final, Russia’s Ismail Gadzhiev won his country’s fourth gold of the YOG with a hard-fought 3-1 win.

Nicknamed The Black Panther, Gadzhiev pointed to the inspiration of his team-mates’ earlier triumphs: “The three other gold medals were a motivation for me. My opponent was strong. When I was leading 3-1, my main goal was not to let anything happen. There were 10-15 seconds left and I had seen that in other bouts four points were lost. I did not want this happen to me.”

Proving Gadzhiev’s point was Turkey’s Cabbar Duyum, who scored very late on to clinch the bronze medal.

There was another tight finish in the 54kg final, with USA’s Daton Fix recovering from a 6-1 first-period deficit against Kazakhstan’s Mukhambet Kuatbek to close to within a point with a minute remaining. Both wrestlers then scored a point apiece in the closing seconds, leaving Kuatbek a relieved 7-6 winner.

“I had vowed that I would win and the flag of Kazakhstan would be raised,” said the 17-year-old champion. “This medal is not only for me – it is for Kazakhstan.”

In the 63kg event, favourite Teymur Mammadov of Azerbaijan seized the gold with a comprehensive 7-0 win over Venezuela’s Anthony Montero, giving his country their second wrestling gold of the Games.

“He was a tough opponent but I was well prepared and ready for victory,” the 17-year-old said. “This will push me on a lot. Everything is still to come for me.”

Taking on Georgia’s Meki Simonia in the 76kg final, Japan’s Yajuro Yamasaki dominated proceedings to win 10-0 inside four minutes. Aged 17, Yamasaki took up wrestling after trying his hand at swimming and football.

Finally, Igbal Hajizada won Azerbaijan’s third wrestling gold in Nanjing when he overcame Dmitri Ceacusta of Moldova 5-1 in the 100kg final.

“I prepared mentally very well,” Hajizada said. “It was a question of principle for me to win, because I lost against him [Ceacusta] at the World Championships. I got my revenge.”

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Singapore 2010 YOG, Youth Games

Boxing: The noble art reigns supreme in Nanjing

September 23rd, 2014

Muhammad Ali lives up to his name

One boxer who could not possibly go unnoticed in Nanjing was Muhammad Ali (GBR). Sharing a name with one of the greatest boxers of all time, the British teenager always believed he was born for the sport.

“It’s a great coincidence to have the same name as one of the biggest legends in boxing history,” he explained. “That was enough to convince me that I was destined for this sport.”

On 24 August, Ali was dominated in the flyweight semi-final by eventual winner Shakur Stevenson (USA) but didn’t leave Nanjing empty-handed. The following day, he put his loss to one side to overcome India’s Gaurav Solanki by unanimous decision in the bronze medal fight.

“I’m disappointed to miss out on gold,” Ali explained. “I’m going to have to work on my technique a bit, but overall I’m happy to be taking home a medal.”

The bronze medal winners decided in the nine remaining weight categories were also decided on 25 August.

Richard Konnyu (HUN) beat Goh Hosaka (JPN) in the 60kg lightweight bout, Ilyas Adzinayeu (BLR) defeated Vincenzo Lizzi (ITA) by TKO in the 69kg welterweight class and Narek Manasyan (ARM) overcame Viddal Riley (GBR) to win the 81kg light-heavyweight bronze.

In the 46-49kg light-flyweight contest, Japan’s Subaru Murata beat Kazakhstan’s Shalkar Aikhynday, Peter McGrail (GBR) ensured a unanimous three-round win over Salem Tamma (ALG) in the 56kg bantamweight and the 64kg light-welterweight bronze went to Turkey’s Adem Furkan Avci after he defeated Russia’s Bibert Tumenov.

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Finally, in the middleweight category, Kozimbek Mardonov (UZB) won 3-0 against Luka Plantic (CRO), Michael Gallagher (IRL) dominated Kim Jin-Nyong (KOR) for the 91kg heavyweight bronze and Russia’s Marat Kerimkhanov won by unanimous decision in his super-heavyweight bout with Azerbaijan’s Mahammadali Tahirov.

Mum’s the word for gentle giant Kadiru

On 26 August, Germany’s Peter Kadiru upset the odds in the super-heavyweight final odds and then paid tribute to his mother for the sacrifices which allowed him to take up the sport.

Kadiru beat favourite Darmani Rock (USA) 3-0, avenging his defeat at the World Youth Championships in Sofia earlier this year.

Cheered on by dozens of his Team Germany colleagues, Kadiru wrapped up a busy final day of boxing in the International Expo Centre as all 10 of the men’s gold medals were decided.

Kadiru’s coach Michael Temm revealed that the young boxer hands over what little money he earns to his mother, Janet.

“Peter is born and bred in Hamburg, but the family is originally from Ghana,” Temm said. “This boy does so much for his family with the small amount of money he makes from his boxing.”

“He gives it all to his mother. Look at the size of the team that has come down to support him. We have no words. They are definitely a part of his winning moment.”

The defeated Rock was himself roared on by a large Team USA contingent, with fellow boxer Shakur Stevenson as the main cheerleader.

Stevenson had earlier won gold in the flyweight category, before promising to do it all over again in Rio at the 2016 Olympic Games.

So far in his short but impressive career the American has fought 15 international bouts and won every one. Win number 15 was a unanimous three-round points victory over China’s Lyu Ping, who had the crowd on his side but had no answer to his opponent’s impressive reach.

Stevenson wrapped a Stars and Stripes bandana around his head as the national anthems rang out before showing that he was equally at home chatting about his victory.

“I might lose one day, but it’s not going to happen any time soon,” he said. “The fight went exactly to plan. I’m not afraid of anyone and I aim to go to Rio to win gold.”

Double delight for Cuba

Elsewhere, Cuba showed they are still producing world-class boxing talent by finishing the final day in the ring with two golds.

Javier Ibanez Diaz eased past Bulgarian Dushko Mihaylov in the bantamweight as he secured a 3-0 victory, while his team-mate Yordan Alain Hernandez Morejon enjoyed a tighter contest against Croatia’s Toni Filipi in the heavyweight class, splitting the judges 2-1 in his favour.

And it could have been even better for Cuba as they narrowly missed out on making it a triple gold when Alain Limonta Boudet lost 2-1 to Ablaikhan Zhussupov (KAZ) in the lightweight final.

In the light fly, meanwhile, Rufat Huseynov of Azerbaijan collapsed to the canvas in delight after beating Sulaymon Latipov (UZB) 3-0.

“I kept telling myself that I’m a champion and that I wouldn’t be going home without the gold,” Huseynov said. “I’m on the right path. I will become European champion, and then Olympic champion.”

The most unquestionable win of the session, however, went to Italy’s light-welterweight Vincenzo Arecchia as he was awarded a walkover victory against Toshihiro Suzuki (JPN), who was withdrawn by the Japan team as a precaution.

In the welterweight final, Juan Solano (DOM) tumbled onto the canvas following a grappling contest with Bektemir Melikuziev (UZB) in the first round of their bout and was also given a standing count in the final round. Not surprisingly, Melikuziev took the judges’ unanimous verdict.

Russia’s Dmitrii Nesterov and Ramil Gadzhyiev of Ukraine both had loud, flag-waving support in the hall for the middleweight final, but it was the yellow and blue contingent of Ukraine that had cause to celebrate after a 3-0 win for their man.

“I’m so proud that I was able to win,” Gadzhyiev said. “This is a great moment for me.”

Finally, in the light-heavyweight division, Blagoy Naydenov (BUL) beat Vadim Kazakov (KAZ) 3-0. Coming away from the fight with a split lip and considerable bruising under his right eye, Naydenov appeared remarkably cool: “I knew I was the favourite and I knew there was pressure but it is no problem,” he said.

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