Olympic journey: From the Youth Games to Rio 2016

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, 12 out of the 128 athletes competing in the archery competition had previous experience at one of the first two Youth Olympic Games, held in Singapore and Nanjing in 2010 and 2014, respectively.

From those 12, only Tan Ya-Ting and Lidiia Sichenikova competed at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.

“From the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, and then my first Games in London, I took the experience to feel more relaxed here in Rio,” said world number two Tan Ya-Ting, from Chinese Taipei.

“Now I know the environment and what’s happening every day. Back in 2010, I thought the Games were an opportunity to tell myself to ‘never give up’, but for Rio, I improved it to ‘never give up and challenge yourself’.”

For some, it’s the challenge – for others, it’s the experience, the pressure, the chance for improvement and the realisation of a dream.

The dream

The Olympics are the “graduation party” that any athlete dreams of. Once it becomes a reality, all many want is to perform well.

“Nanjing 2014 was definitely part of my preparation for Rio 2016. It was my first multi-sport event, my first Olympics and it is something that I will always remember. Afterwards, I started to dream about Rio,” said Mete Gazoz, Turkey’s sole man in Rio.

“Nanjing was my biggest competition or at least that’s what I thought, because I after arrived in Rio, I realised how wrong I was. This is the biggest and more important ever. Back then, I shot for bronze, so I hope that I can stay focused to achieve something similar here.”

The Experience

India’s Atanu Das first Olympic experience was in Singapore in 2010, where he finished 17. Six years later, looking back, he said that compared to that experience, the competition level in Rio is higher.

“Being at the Olympics is having the chance to compete against the best of the world. Compared to the Youth, which was my first Olympic experience, there’s more pressure,” the world number 22 said.

“Nanjing and Rio share the fact that they are both my first time at the most important event in sports, first as a junior and now as a senior. Being part of both makes me want to be better.”

The Pressure

“I didn’t expect to become an Olympian at my age,” said 19 year-old Hendra Purnama. “After Nanjing, I improved my scores, my technique and my mental training to be the strongest I could be for Rio. The atmospheres are very similar, but compared to the Youth, this Olympics brings more pressure on me.”

Australia’s Alice Ingley commented that the Youth Games experience prevents athletes from becoming overwhelmed with Olympic environment.

“The youth and the senior Olympic Games are pretty similar in terms of what’s happening, the environment at the village, the grand final set-up, although there’s more spectators at this Olympics than at the Youth,” she added.

“The Youth Games were amazing and helped me a lot to know what to expect today. If I just came to this, I think I would be a bit more sporadic and nervous.”

The Improvement

As after any other competition, athletes analyse their performances and decide on next steps for training sessions, to work on technique and mental preparation.

“My training is more intense now. I’m training all day and sometimes in the evening too, while before Nanjing I only trained in the afternoon,” said Nanjing silver medallist Marcus D’Almeida.

“It’s about being more professional. I have more people supporting me and it’s good to be able to know the difference between those Games and this one. In Nanjing, I was younger but I have grown up and understand more the professionalism of the sport. That experience helped me a lot to be here today.”

After all, even two years is a lot of time and opportunity for improvement.

“My score has improved since the Youth Olympics in 2014 – about 15 to 20 points,” says Libyan Ali El Ghrari, referring to the ranking round. 

“Rio is different for sure and, as I did well in Nanjing, I want to feel great here, improve my scores and go back home with the best results I can achieve.”

The archery competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games starts on the 5 August in the Sambodromo.