Pedro Adrega, FINA Communications Department

After six days of competition, 36 finals and almost 400 athletes in the pool, the swimming events are now over at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. In the Argentinean capital, many National Federations saw their best junior athletes shine at the highest level. The best possible proof of this accomplishment is the medal chart of the competition, where no less than 33 nations had at least one podium presence at these Games.

This is a new record for the Youth Olympic Games, after the first edition in Singapore registered 27 countries with medals, and the second one in Nanjing (CHN) had 29 nations with podium presences. In Buenos Aires, the final numbers show an unprecedented number of countries with medals, certainly a sign that new nations and swimmers are in the right direction to also shine at elite level. 

The top-5 in this classification includes Russia, with 13 gold, four silver and two bronze, for a total of 19 medals. The European powerhouse had in Kliment Kolesnikov and Andrei Minakov their main assets, with six gold each. Hungary was second, with seven gold and one silver, and could count on the brilliant performances of Kristof Milak and Ajna Kesely. China completes the leading trio, with three gold, four silver and two bronze. Without surprise, Japan comes next (2+2+4), while a surprising Czech Republic closes the top-5, with two gold and one bronze medal. All the achievements of the Czech delegation came from a single swimmer, Barbora Seemanova – gold in the 50m and 100m free, and bronze in 200m free.

Kristof Milak (HUN)

In the list of countries (14) with gold medals, we find nations that normally shine also at the elite level, such as Italy, Australia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden or South Africa. This golden “club” is closed, however, by three National Federations not so used to “appear” at major events: Israel, Moldova and Vietnam. 

The Israeli success came from Anastasia Gorbenko in the women’s 200m IM, while Huy Hoang Nguyen (VIE) shone in the men’s 800m free. The Moldovan case is an interesting one, with Tatiana Salcutan (born in April 2001) being the best in the women’s 200m backstroke. 

After having benefitted from a FINA Scholarship from January to September 2017, her performances in the backstroke events have been consistently better. Before the title in Buenos Aires, she was bronze medallist in the 100m and 200m back at the Kazan leg of the FINA Swimming Cup. In August 2017, she was only seventh at the FINA World Juniors in Indianapolis, after being 15thin her pet event at the FINA Worlds in Budapest (HUN). Going back to 2016, she was 25that the FINA Worlds (25m) in Windsor and eight at the Moscow leg of the World Cup. In 50m-pool, she clocked 2:11.27 in Budapest 2017, 2:11.56 in Indianapolis 2017, 2:11.42 in Kazan 2018, and finally 2:10.13 in Buenos Aires 2018. 

Tatiana Salcutan (MDA), in the centre

In the list of countries with no gold medals, the most successful one was Brazil, with three silver linings. They all came from relay events, the men’s and women’s 4x100m free, and the mixed 4x100m free. 

After three medals – two gold in the 800m and 1500m free, and a silver in the 400m free – in Indianapolis 2017 (FINA World Junior Championships), Delfina Pignatiello was the local hero for the crowd at the Natatorium. The Argentinean fans were naturally expecting a gold medal, but in the two events she participated (the 1500m free is not in the YOG programme), she had to content with the silver – firstly in the 800m free, when she touched the entire nation by showing the word “Grandmother” in her hand, whom she had lost some days before, and then in the last competition day, in a thrilling 400m free.

The case of Kyrgyzstan is also worthy. In the men’s 100m breaststroke, Denis Petrashov was another successful example of the positive effect of a FINA Scholarship. Enrolled in the programme firstly from April 2015 to January 2016, and then from November 2017 until now, the 18-year-old clocked 1:01.34 to set a memorable result for his country. Before the Argentinean rendezvous, his best times at major meets were: 1:03.14 (Budapest 2017) and 1:02.64 (Indianapolis 2017). In the summer 2016, he had swum at the Rio Olympic Games, where he finished in a modest 38thposition in the 200m breast (2:16.57).

The best country only with bronze medals was Slovenia, with three awards, all among women – Neza Klancar in the 50m and 100m free, and Tina Celik, in the 50m breaststroke.

When looking at the medal chart in Buenos Aires, another surprise strikes the analysts. From the 110 medals that were distributed in the Natatorium – two silver were given in the men’s 50m fly, while two bronze were awarded in the women’s 50m free and 50m fly – the United States only got one, a bronze. They finished therefore in the last place of the chart – exactly the opposite of what normally happens at Olympic or world level!