GANGNEUNG, South Korea – International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said on Feb 1 that the 2024 Gangwon Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) have been a “brilliant success” with the efforts of athletes, the organising committee and the volunteers.

At the closing ceremony of the event, the German appreciated all the athletes’ engagement and congratulated them on their performance.

“What I saw and heard from you (is that) you’re really like this Winter Youth Olympic Games. You have played an important part of this,” the IOC chief said.

He added: “All this would not have been possible without the great work of our (South) Korea friends–the organising committee, the (South) Korea people, the volunteers, the different level of governments. All of them have been very much engaged to make this Winter Youth Olympic Games Gangwon 2024 brilliant success.”

The closing ceremony was held in an open plaza in front of the Gangneung Olympic Park Hockey Center Auxiliary Field under the theme of “Shine again”.

This encouraged the young athletes to shine again the “light within themselves”, which they discovered during the competitions, and stride forward into a new tomorrow with the light cherished.

A highlight video of the competitions was shown on the main screen after lowering the Olympic flag to the sound of the anthem. The ceremony concluded with the cauldron extinguished.

In all, 1,802 athletes aged 14 to 18 from 78 countries and regions competed for the past 12 days at the fourth Winter YOG featuring seven sports, 15 disciplines and 81 events.

Italy topped the medal standings with 11 golds, three silvers and four bronzes, followed by Germany (9-5-6), South Korea (7-6-4), France (7-5-6) and China (6-9-3). The United States’ five golds, 11 silvers and five bronzes gave them the most medals with 21.

More than a few young athletes rose to stardom after demonstrating their great potential as prodigies.

China’s short track speed skater Yang Jingru claimed gold medals in the women’s 1,500m and mixed relay as well as a silver in the women’s 1,000m. The 17-year-old showen great individual strength and tactical execution in the 1,500m, where she used the “rabbit tactic”.

She accelerated first in less than half a lap of the start and overtook all other competitors along the way, before cooperating with her teammates to win the first gold medal for the Chinese delegation.

Angel Daleman of the Netherlands finished on the podium in all four-speed skating events, with three golds in the women’s 500m, 1,500m and mass start, in addition to a bronze in the mixed relay. The 16-year-old is also a rare skater doubling up across the two disciplines, as she secured silver in the short track speed skating 1,500m at the World Junior Championships in early 2022 and won four individual and two relay golds at the speed skating junior world championships in 2023.

Japan’s Mao Shimada is a rising star in the women’s singles figure skating as she took the title with an overwhelming performance. The 15-year-old, who ranked first in the short programme, took the gold with a free skate of 125.94 points for a total of 196.99 points, more than five points ahead of the silver medallist Shin Ji-a from South Korea and nearly 14 in front of compatriot Yo Takagi.

The Japanese also snatched the women’s singles championship in the youth category of the 2022 and 2023 World Figure Skating Grand Prix Finals and the women’s singles title at the 2023 World Junior Championships.

Italy’s freestyle skier Flora Tabanelli took two golds in the women’s slopestyle and big air, following in the footsteps of China’s Eileen Gu, who clinched two golds in big air and halfpipe as well as a slopestyle silver at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics, before claiming those titles at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

Zak Carrick-Smith set a historic milestone for Britain by offering the first-ever gold medal in an alpine skiing Olympic event for his home country. After winning the men’s combined title, he went on to rack up the men’s giant slalom silver and a second gold in the men’s slalom event at the Games.

Lee Cha-eun of South Korea became a double gold medallist in the men’s snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle events. The 17-year-old is a reigning halfpipe world champion who showed better form than his rivals in front of his home crowd. XINHUA

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