BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Brandon Briones had worked so hard for a medal. And yet he kept coming up short.
Over three days of competition, the 17-year-old gymnast had missed the podium four times, placing fourth or fifth in each final. He was so close each time that, spread across those four finals, had he scored 0.776 points more, he would have four medals in hand. Instead he had none.
Finally, that luck changed in his fifth final of the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, and in a big way.
Not only did he medal, but Briones won gold on vault Sunday night by more than a tenth of a point.
“It feels so gratifying to finally get a medal,” he said. “I’ve just been missing the podium over and over, just barely, barely; so, to be able to come out with the gold medal is amazing.”
Briones’ first vault scored a 14.466, and his second a 13.733, for an average of 14.099.
Nazar Chepurnyi of Ukraine was second with 13.983 and Norway’s Jacob Karlsen took bronze with 13.833.
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Briones had qualified first on vault on Monday with a 14.033 and knew it would be one of his best chances at a medal.
His first final came on Thursday in the all-around, where he finished fourth and after competing on six events missed the podium by 0.134 points.
Briones was fifth in both of Saturday’s event finals, floor exercise and pommel horse, and fourth on still rings Sunday evening, letting bronze slip away by 0.034.
Despite the frustrations, the U.S. junior champion knows the results show he is right up there with the best gymnasts his age and is primed for the future.
“It means the world. Getting to compete at this high a level is so valuable, especially at such a meet, because I will be competing with these guys the rest of my life so it is setting me up really well for the future,” Briones reflected.
Briones will also compete in the remaining two event finals on Monday, parallel bars and high bar, but knows that however he finishes he will forever be a Youth Olympic gold medalist, and it is an experience he won’t soon forget.
“I’ll remember how unique this event was and just being thankful for the opportunity to represent my country,” he said on what he will take away from his time in Buenos Aires.