YOG Singapore 2010, Day 5: Seven finals, 13 countries on the podium, six medals for Australia

Youth Olympic Games

“Variety” was the key-concept of the fourth session of finals at the Youth Olympic Games, taking place in Singapore. Throughout the seven finals contested, no less than 13 nations earned medals in the pool of the Sports School; two of them – Singapore and Kuwait (competing in these Games under the IOC flag) – were on a swimming Olympic podium for the first time; Australia was the most prolific country, with no less than six awards (one gold, two silver and three bronze) in this session; China, with two gold, comfortably reinforced the lead of the medal chart; Italy won the first race of these Games; to complete the scenario, the many spectators and young students that filled the stands of the venue were even awarded with a shared medal (bronze) in the men’s 50m backstroke.

It all started with the men’s 50m free, and the easy triumph of Andrii Govorov, from Ukraine, in a time of 22.35. Govorov was not the fastest on the starting blocks, but took the lead of the short race immediately after breaking the surface of the water. It was the first medal for the Ukrainian boys’ delegation, who had in Daryna Zevina its best performer so far (two medals in the women’s backstroke events). Australia would win its first award of the day, with the silver going to Kenneth To (22.82, third medal in Singapore), while Spain got the bronze thanks to Aitor Martinez (ESP).

Quite thrilling was the men’s 200m breaststroke, where Nicholas Schafer (AUS) had qualified with the fastest time of the semis. In the decisive race, Flavio Bizzarri (ITA) took the initiative very soon and was in the lead at the 50m and 100m-mark. He lost the first place at the 150m-turn (to Schafer), but managed to recover the first place and victory in 2:13.31. It was the first gold medal for his country at these Games, after a silver and a bronze in the previous sessions. Schafer finished third (2:13.72), behind Anton Lobanov (RUS, 2:13.65, and third award of the competition).

In a session rich in 50m events (besides freestyle, none of the other 50m strokes are on the programme of the traditional Olympic Games), the women’s shortest race in butterfly saw the supremacy of China’s Lan Liu, who earned gold in 26.97. It was a very close race, with Italy’s Elena Di Liddo getting the silver in 27.06 and, relatively far, Anna Santamans (FRA) finishing third (27.31). Besides Liu, all the remaining seven finallists touched home within second 27 (27.06 for the silver and 27.86 for the eighth ranked swimmer).

Italy's Flavio Bizzarri - credit: SPH-Syogoc/Mugilan Rajasegeran

Then, the most unexpected podium of the day, with Christian Homer, from Trinidad & Tobago, getting the gold in 26.36. Extremely close, the results of the race were only understandable looking at the scoreboard: that was when the local spectators understood that their swimmer – Singapore’s Rainer Kai Wee Ng – has earned silver in 26.45. The bronze was shared by Abdullah Altuwaini (from Kuwait, but competing under the IOC flag, after the suspension of his NOC by the International Olympic Committee in 2009) and by Australia’s Max Ackermann: both swimmers clocked 26.46. Never Singapore, nor Kuwait, had medalled at a swimming event at Olympic level, so this premiere confirms that these Games allow new countries to emerge at the youth level. Six countries are now in this situation: the above mentioned nations of this fourth session, plus Czech Republic, Israel, Portugal and Venezuela.

Much more conventional was the podium in the women’s 100m breaststroke, with a very successful race for Canada: Tera van Beilen got the gold in 1:08.95, while her teammate Rachel Nicol finished third in 1:09.08. In the middle, the silver went to Australia’s Emily Selig in 1:09.06. These three swimmers had the fastest times of the semi-finals. Also not very surprising was the victory of Yi Tang (CHN, 1:58.78) in the women’s 200m free: perhaps, the facility in which she won was not so expected, as at the 125m-mark she was already one and a half body ahead of her main challengers. These included Boglarka Kapas, from Hungary, who got the silver in 2:00.99, and Emma McKeon (AUS), bronze medallist in 2:01.18. All the three medal winners of the race had already been on the podium at these Games, with Tang getting her third title.

China's Lan Liu - credit: SPH-Syogoc/Lim Sin Thai

Finally, the major question mark of the day was the men’s 4x100m medley relay, in which Australia had clocked the fastest time of the heats, but where huge expectations surrounded the performances of both China and Russia in the decisive race. The “Aussies” confirmed their credentials and touched first in 3:42.50 (only the backstroke leg was not so successful – fourth at the 100m turn), but China and Russia could not reach the podium. The reason for the failure was in the free and last leg for both nations – respectively swum by Jun Dai and Andrey Ushakov. While Ushakov completed the two laps in 50.29, Dai was even slower, covering the final 100m in 51.16. Much faster, were France’s Medhy Metella (49.25), and Germany’s Kevin Leithold (49.35) – this final effort, gave the French (3:43.84) and the Germans (3:44.22) the silver and bronze medal. South Africa still had in Chad Le Clos a dynamic swimmer in the butterfly section (52.34), but this one-man achievement was not enough to do better than an overall sixth position.

The start of the men's 4x100m medley relay - credit: SPH-Syogoc/Lim Sin Thai

Quotes of the day
"I hope to be able to take a second medal for my country. Our country has not really succeeded at this sport. I hope to lift the level." – Cadell Lyons (TRI) is looking to add to a new medal to Trinidad and Tobago's tally when he competes in the youth men's 50m butterfly final on Thursday. His teammate Christian Homer claimed the Caribbean nation's gold in the 50m backstroke on Wednesday night

"Before the race, I talk to my lane and tell it what we're going to do."
- Aitor Martinez (ESP), bronze medal in the men’s 50m free

"When I finished the race it was pure relief. From yesterday until today I was thinking only of the race and improving my time. Although it wasn't faster today (than my qualifying time), at least it was enough to get a silver medal."
- Singapore’s Rainer Kai Wee Ng, silver medallist in the men’s 50m backstroke

"We're just really excited about this. We came here with a backstroker, a breaststroker, a flyer and a freestyler, and we knew this was our event to shine. This was the one we were all focused on. I think we're just over the moon. We just did it all for each other. So happy. Can't ask for anything more than that."
– Reaction of the Australian team, after the victory in the men’s 4x100m medley relay

"I will finish my exams next year. After that I want to move to America or Australia. The swimming facilities there are so much better than in Hong Kong."
- Lum Ching Tat (HKG)