The second summer Youth Olympic Games were staged Aug. 16-28 in Nanjing, China, with 3,800 athletes from 201 nations represented. The competition, for athletes 15-18 years old, included 222 events in 28 sports. Here are some highlights for Team USA.
Many More Gold Medals
Team USA athletes won 22 medals in Nanjing: 10 gold, five silver and seven bronze. That was an improvement from the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 in Singapore, when Team USA won 21 medals, but only four gold. The 92-member U.S. team competed in 20 sports, an increase from the 82 athletes over 18 sports four years earlier. Meanwhile, coverage of the Youth Olympic Games expanded as well. Marking the first time the Games were broadcasted in the U.S., NBC Olympics aired 24.5 hours of coverage between NBC and NBCSN, while Universal Sports aired 30 hours of coverage.
Hannah Moore Makes Biggest Splash
Swimmer Hannah Moore led Team USA with a pair of gold medals, winning both the women’s 200-meter backstroke and 400-meter freestyle titles, the latter on her 18th birthday. Moore swam the 200 backstroke in 2 minutes, 10.42 seconds, sharing the gold with Italy’s Ambra Esposito. She was alone atop the medal podium in the 400 freestyle, her time of 4:11.05 nearly two-tenths of a second ahead of Thailand’s Sarisa Suwannachet. Teammate Clara Smiddy won the 100 backstroke and Meghan Small claimed the bronze in the 200 individual medley.
Samuelson Earns Basketball Double
Katie Lou Samuelson also won a pair of medals, an individual bronze and team gold, in women’s basketball. Samuelson finished third in the individual shootout (a 3-point shooting contest) and then four days later helped Team USA to the crown in the 3-on-3 competition with De’Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier and Arike Ogunbowale. Team USA won all nine games in the preliminary rounds and remained undefeated through the quarterfinals, semis and final.
First Table Tennis Medal For Team USA
After competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games at 16, Lily Zhang became the first Youth Olympian to compete at the Olympic Games first. She used her experience to take the individual bronze in women’s table tennis. Zhang won all three of her group matches before defeating Belgium’s Lisa Lung in the second round and Thailand’s Tamolwan Khetkhuan in the quarterfinals. After falling to Hong Kong’s Hoi Kem Doo in the semis, Zhang outlasted Japan’s Miyu Kato 4-2 to become the first American to win a medal in table tennis at either the Olympic or Youth Olympic Games.
Olympic Spirit Exemplified In Triathlon
Team USA triathlon coach Ian Murray was told that the Solomon Islands’ Boris Teddy’s competition bicycle was one of the best in the Pacific nation. But with a heavy frame, old components and a bent wheel, he knew it wasn’t adequate. So, in the spirit of the Olympic Games, Murray loaned Teddy his personal bike, which he had brought to China just in case one of the U.S. athletes ran into equipment problems. Teddy used the bike to compete in the mixed relay final.
Two years after Team USA was shut out of medals in men’s boxing at the Olympic Games for the first time, Shakur Stevenson and Darmani Rock gave rise to American hopes. Stevenson won all three of his bouts by unanimous decision, including the final over Lyu Ping of host China, to claim the flyweight (52-kilogram) gold medal. Rock won a silver medal in the men’s super heavyweight division (91+ kilograms) after falling to Germany’s Peter Kadiru in the final. Meanwhile, Jajaira Gonzalez won the women’s lightweight competition to become the first U.S. boxer to medal at the Youth Games. She beat Ireland’s Ciara Ginty 3-0 in the final.
Sprinters Lead Track Medalists
Sprinters Noah Lyles and Brandee Johnson won gold and bronze in the men’s and women’s 200-meter to continue Team USA’s strong tradition in track and field. Lyles won the men’s 200 in 20.80 seconds, four-tenths of a second ahead of Botswana’s Baboloki Thebe. Lyles followed Johnson, who earlier in the day became the second U.S. woman to medal in the women’s 200 in the Youth Olympic Games, running 24.28 to earn the last step on the podium. Myles Marshall, whose father competed in the 800-meter at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games and whose mother missed the Seoul 1988 Games in the 800 by four-hundredths of a second, earned Team USA’s other gold medal, winning the middle distance in 1:49.14. Rhesa Foster also medaled for Team USA, taking bronze in the women’s long jump with a leap of 6.17 meters. Foster’s father, Robert, competed in the 110-meter hurdles for Jamaica at the 1996 and 2000 Games.
Sabrina Massialas won Team USA’s first gold medal in fencing at the Youth Olympic Games, winning the women’s foil title to eclipse her brother Alex’s silver in men’s foil at the 2010 event in Singapore. She outlasted Japan’s Karin Miyawaki in the title bout, winning in overtime, 7-6. The gold medal is the highest achievement in a fencing family that also includes Massialas’ father, Greg, a three-time Olympian and national team coach. Alex Massialas later became a 2012 U.S. Olympian.
Another Reason To Raise The Flag
Five days after carrying the flag for the United States in the Opening Ceremony, Kendall Yount had reason to fly the Star-Spangled Banner again, winning the 63-plus division in women’s taekwondo. Yount defeated Uzbekistan’s Umida Abdullaeva 4-2 in the final, avenging her 4-3 loss to Abdullaeva in the final of the qualifier in March. Yount was the first American to carry the flag in a summer Olympic Opening Ceremony and win an individual event in the same Games since Rafer Johnson’s decathlon victory in 1960.
Starting With A Medal
Stephanie Jenks began Team USA’s medal campaign on the first day that hardware was awarded, earning a silver in the women’s triathlon sprint on the morning of Aug. 17, her 17th birthday. Jenks finished the 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike race and 5-kilometer run in 1 hour, 33 seconds — 37 seconds behind Brittany Dutton of Australia. It was the fourth straight time Team USA had medaled in triathlon at the Youth Olympic Games.
First Rhythmic Gymnastics Medal For Team USA
After breaking into the top 20 only twice since rhythmic gymnastics was introduced into the Olympic Games in 1984, the United States earned its first medal in the sport when Laura Zeng claimed a bronze in the individual all-around. Zeng overcame a shaky toss in her final event (ribbon) to finish with an overall score of 56.750, two-tenths behind Belarus’ Maryia Trubach. Russia’s Irina Annenkova won with 58.575 points.
Grappling For Silver
Each member of Team USA’s three-member wrestling team came home with a silver medal, with Cade Olivas taking the hardware in 46-kilogram freestyle, Daton Fix doing the same in the 54-kilogram freestyle, and Mason Manville taking the silver in the 69-kilogram Greco-Roman class. Manville recorded lopsided victories in three matches to qualify for the final, where he lost 1-0 to Islambek Dadov of Azerbaijan.
Passing It To The Next Generation
Helping Team USA athletes in Nanjing were several Olympians turned coaches. Barbra Fontana, who played beach volleyball for the United States in 1996; 1980 Polish modern pentathlete Jan Olesinski; Aretha Thurmond, who competed in discus in four Olympic Games for the United States (1996, 2004, 2008, 2012); and Lily Yip, who went to the Barcelona Games in 1992 and Atlanta Games in 1996 for the United States in table tennis, all lent their expertise to the Team USA contingent in Nanjing.
Hours before winning a bronze medal in the men’s gymnastics all-around final, Alec Yoder attended his second cooking class as part of the Culture and Education Program. Extracurricular activities at the Youth Olympic Games through the CEP offered athletes a chance to engage with fellow competitors outside of the gymnasiums, playing fields and pools. More than 200 activities, from kite flying on the city walls of Nanjing to healthy cooking classes, were offered at the Games, with Team USA members participating in more than 2,500 of them over the course of 13 days. “Being here has seriously been the time of my life,” Yoder said. “I have loved just walking around the different tents and experiencing different cultures, meeting a lot of different people.”
Brian Trusdell has covered four FIFA World Cups and six Olympic Games during his more than 30 years as a sportswriter, mostly with the Associated Press and Bloomberg News. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.