Youth Olympians show potential for Team GB in Rio & Tokyo

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Young British athletes show Olympic promise

The Nanjing Youth Olympics in China were a huge success for Great Britain - with a squad of 32 athletes winning a total of 24 medals.

That compares favourably to the inaugural Singapore Games four years ago, when a team of 39 collected 13 medals between them.

It's true that the official target was to gain experience in an Olympic environment rather than to raise the medal total.

But the results at the Games, which ended last Thursday, led British Olympic Association chairman Lord Coe to state there is an "extraordinary generation" of talent emerging.

Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic facts
More than 3,700 athletes from 204 nations competed in the Games
Hosts China topped the unofficial medal table with 64 honours
Team GB competed in 13 of the 28 sports in China
Over 200,000 spectators attended during the 12 day event
Golf featured in an Olympics for the first time since 1904

With previous Youth Olympians such as Jade Jones,Sam Oldham and Tom Daley all going on to secure honours at London 2012, there is every reason to be optimistic about the current crop of GB prospects.

Here, BBC Sport looks at some of the stand-out performances in Nanjing from British and international athletes, who could go on to make an impact at future Olympic Games.


Jessica Fullalove (swimming)

Jessica Fullalove
Jessica Fullalove won three silver medals in Nanjing
50m backstrokeSilver
100m backstrokeSilver
4x100m medley relaySilver

The Manchester-based 18-year-old says she wants to be the "Usain Bolt of the pool",external-link and she has been dubbed the heir to Britain's retired 100m backstroke world record holder Gemma Spofforth.

Backstroker Fullalove will be looking to follow the lead of teenagers Sophie Taylor and James Guy - who followed up junior success with Commonwealth medals this year.

"The record-breaking Europeans were inspiring and the team will be so strong in Rio," she told BBC Sport. "I want to be part of that and get my name out there over the next couple of years."

Ellie Downie (gymnastics)


The 15-year-old was the most successful female gymnast in Nanjing with four medals - and after claiming European junior vault gold earlier this year, Downie looks ready to make the step up to senior competition.

Her elder sister Becky - a European and Commonwealth champion in 2014 - specialises in the beam and uneven bars events, while Ellie is strong on the floor and vault, so the pair could make a great double act for Britain in Rio.

"If she continues to progress as she has been then she could be one of the best in the world," said British triple world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Beth Tweddle.

Christian McNeish (taekwondo)

-63kg divisionBronze

World and European junior kick-boxing champion McNeish was expected to become a star of the sport once he moved up to senior level, but was attracted away by the lure of becoming an Olympian.

He applied for a UK Sport talent identification programme, Fighting Chance, in late 2012 and was selected for the GB Taekwondo programme last year to compete at -63kg.

McNeish beat Russia's world junior silver medallist Soso Kvartskhava before a controversial defeat to Brazil's reigning world junior champion Edival Marques Quirino Pontes en-route to Youth Olympic bronze - and he could come into contention for Rio 2016 if he steps up to the -68kg division.


Giarnni Regini-Moran (gymnastics)

High barBronze
Parallel barsBronze

The 16-year-old is seen as someone with huge potential.

Regini-Moran wins second gymnastics gold

Regini-Moran's excellent performance in the all-around competition will impress GB selectors, who overlooked pommel horse specialist Louis Smith for this year's European championships because of his lack of versatility.

The teenager's biggest problem is the difficulty of dislodging anyone from the current senior team, which has youth and established success on its side. Because of this, Tokyo is a more realistic prospect than Rio.

"All the medals feel like a dream," Regini-Moran said. "GB gymnasts have been so successful recently and I'd love to be part of that Olympic team one day."

Ben Dijkstra (triathlon)

Ben Dijkstra
Ben Dijkstra held off New Zealand's Daniel Hoy to win individual triathlon gold
Junior men's individual eventGold
Mixed international relay eventGold

Seen as a potential medallist ahead of the Youth Olympics, Dijkstra - who's family name heralds from his Dutch father - surprised many with double gold.

Although the 15-year-old admits it is the swimming discipline that he needs to progress the most in, his performances in the cycling and running phases were astounding.

Dijkstra admits Rio 2016 is likely to come "too soon" for him, but Alistair Brownlee has struggled with injuries in recent years, and the teenager is a likely successor to the Olympic champion come the Tokyo Games.

Francesca Summers (modern pentathlon)

Junior women's individual eventSilver

Great Britain has an impressive history in the modern pentathlon, which combines fencing, swimming, show jumping, pistol shooting and cross-country running.

GB silver for Summers in Youth Olympic pentathlon.

Team GB have won a medal at each Olympics since Sydney 2000. The two most recent successes - Heather Fell at Beijing 2008 and Samantha Murray at London 2012 - both earning world junior medals before going on to gain Olympic silver.

It means there is a clear pathway for Summers to follow and having won global junior medals already she looks to be the next in a line of elite British modern pentathletes.

"Winning the [Youth Olympic bronze] medal has given me loads of experience for the future," she said.


Shen Duo
Shen Duo won six gold medals at the Youth Olympics - setting two world records in the process

Chinese freestyle swimming specialist Shen Duo, 17, was the host-nation's most decorated Youth Olympian claiming a stunning six golds and setting two world junior records in the pool - despite reportedly suffering from flu.

16-year-old compatriot Ye Shilin, meanwhile, dropped just one set en-route to Nanjing tennis gold - and has been dubbed the new Li Naexternal-link by a Chinese newspaper.

Charismatic 17-year-old Jamaican duo Jaheel Hyde and Martin Manley were the two outstanding sprint athletes, with the latter saying he wants to be "better than Usain Bolt" after his 400m victory.

Hyde set a new 110m hurdles world junior record of 12.96 secondsexternal-link en-route to gold - and with no Jamaican having ever won the event at senior Olympic level, he could be the man to end that run come the 2020 Games.

Martin Manley
Jamaica's Martin Manley - here with Youth Olympics mascot Nanjinglele - wants to surpass Usain Bolt

Kenyan runners have won every men's 3000m Olympic steeplechase title since 1984, but Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha represents potentially the best-prospect of ending that run.

The 17-year-old is world number two in the senior ranks and his Nanjing victory completed a hat-trick of major titlesexternal-link - adding to world junior and world youth 3000m successes - in the last 13 months.

Ukrainian shooter Pavlo Korostylov - who set a world junior record points score of 203.4 to take the 10m air pistol title - and Russia's five-time Youth Olympic medal-winning gymnast Nikita Nagornyy are both expected to challenge for honours in Rio.


China, the United States and Russia unsurprisingly topped the medal tableexternal-link - but Kuwait, Hong Kong, Zambia and Vietnam were just some of the lower-profile countries winning honours, suggesting that several nations could emerge as major contenders over the coming decade.

The Nanjing Youth Olympics were described by International Olympic Committee [IOC] president Thomas Bach as the "innovation" Gamesexternal-link - because it offered a chance to test new sports and bring new twists to established events.

Great Britain at the 2014 Youth Olympics
3: Giarnni Regini-Moran (all-around gymnastics; floor; vault)2: Jessica Fullalove (100m backstroke; 50m backstroke)3: Ellie Downie (all-round gymnastics; beam; floor)
2: Ben Dijkstra (triathlon; multi-nation mixed relay triathlon)1: Women's 4x100m medley swim relay team2: Giarnni Regini-Moran (high bar; parallel bar)
1: Men's 4x100m freestyle swim relay team1: Sian Rainsley (multi-nation mixed relay triathlon)1: Christian McNeish (taekwondo)
1: Jake Saywell (mixed-nation team equestrian event)1: Ellie Downie (vault)1: Peter Miles (mixed-nation team judo)
1: Francesca Summers (modern pentathlon)1: Luke Greenbank (200m backstroke)
1: Abigail Stones (taekwondo)
1: Muhammad Ali (-52kg boxing)
1: Peter McGrail (-56kg boxing)

Triathlon and cycling had mixed-nation teams, while basketball and hockey dropped their traditional formats in favour of small-sided games.

There was also a "sports lab", which allowed events which missed out on the 2020 Olympics - wushu, skateboarding and climbing - to demonstrate their potential for future inclusion.

Bach is unlikely to revolutionise the Olympics, but he is keen to ensure the movement does not stagnate.

The next summer Youth Olympics will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2018 with further sports and new formats expected to be included.