Team GB ended the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games with a final flourish after winning four medals, including two golds, on the last day of competition.
The boxers led the way with gold medal bout victories for Caroline Dubois and Karol Itauma, while Hassan Azim collected bronze in the ring and Lauren Salisbury won karate bronze after waiting the entire Games to begin competition.
The final day haul means Team GB end Buenos Aires 2018 with 15 medals, three gold, six silver and six bronze.
Success for Dubois, Itauma and Azim followed Ivan Hope Price’s gold yesterday and means every member of the Team GB boxing squad will leave Argentina having stepped onto the podium.
Dubois’ win was the 35th of her young career and the Londoner is yet to lose a fight while collecting three European and one world title as well as today’s Youth Olympic gold.
The 17-year-old was taken to the bell in the third and last round by Thailand’s Porntip Buapa but Dubois’ sharp combinations and relentless attacking style was too much for her opponent with all five judges calling the fight in favour of the undefeated Brit.
“This is everything I’ve ever dreamed of,” said Dubois. “When I’m training in the gym I’m imagining these fights so I’ve done this fight already 50 times before. It’s just amazing that it’s finally come true.
“I’m really happy with what the team have done here, all the boys, we’ve showed our class out there. When the boys finished they all came and supported me and it was great to have them 100% behind me.
“I’ve won the youth Europeans, Worlds and now the Olympics. I’ve won it all so soon it’ll be time for me to step up to the seniors and go for the Olympic Games.
“An Olympic Games is a very exciting prospect and I’d enjoy every minute if I ever had that chance. It’s amazing to even think about having an opportunity like that and I’d really appreciate it if it ever happened.”
Itauma’s final was a lot less straightforward against Russia’s Ruslan Ruskolesnikov, the reigning Junior World and European Champion.
The Russian’s European crown came at the expense of Itauma in the final earlier this year but it was the Brit who was on the front foot from the off, taking the fight to Ruskolesnikov.
Itauma’s aggression and then evasiveness as Ruskolesnikov tried to pick him off in rounds two and three was enough to convince four of the five judges to award the fight to the Chatham boxer.
“It means everything to win this gold medal,” said Itauma. “Ruskolesnikov is a very experienced boxer and he beat me in the European final. But I went back to the gym, I trained hard and I focused knowing that I wanted to get the job done when it really matters at the Youth Olympics.
“When he beat me in the Europeans it was my first big tournament. I went there and was like ‘woah’, this is big, this is new. But after the Europeans when I won silver and after the Worlds I went home and worked hard and listened to my coaches. In that short period I excelled and that along with experience I got from the other tournaments meant I was ready.
“My dad’s here in Buenos Aires and when I was hugging him after the fight I was just saying ‘dad, I won, I won’ over and over.
“He told me I’d win. Yesterday he gave me a card and he wrote a long paragraph saying all the struggles and suffering I’ve been through in the past is going to be worth it tomorrow.
“We’re a team here as boxers and that’s through spending a lot of time together and bonding. When we come to major events like this we come as a team so you know when you’re in the ring you’re one team supporting each other.”
Azim had got the medal action underway earlier in the afternoon, defeating Morocco’s Mohammed Boulaouj in the men’s light welterweight bronze medal bout.
The 17-year-old, who was then named as Team GB’s Closing Ceremony flagbearer, was in sparkling form, stopping Boulaouj twice in the first round then twice more in the second before the referee finally brought an end to the contest.
“Winning a medal and being able to come back home from the Youth Olympic Games with bronze is amazing,” said the Slough boxer.
“I felt really strong out there. I was just getting better and better and I could see the openings were there so I just wanted to take my time. After the third standing count I was sure the ref was going to stop it.
“This is a big stepping stone for me. Hopefully when I get a chance in the senior Olympics I’ll be more focused and will be more ready because I’d done a Youth Olympics.
“It means a lot to be the flagbearer for the team. When the boss [Chef de Mission Mahdi Choudhury] asked to see me I thought I was in trouble but when he told me I was blown away. The whole team from all the sports have become a bit of a family and all supporting each other. It’s a great thing to be a part of.”
Across the Youth Olympic Park as boxing got in to full swing, karate came to a conclusion and Team GB had an interest in the women’s kumite +59kg event in the form of Lauren Salisbury.
And the Romford fighter didn’t disappoint, securing bronze and Team GB its first ever Olympic karate medal.
After an initial 4-2 defeat to Keli Kydonaki of Greece, in which the bout was very even until two late points for the Greek fighter, Salisbury had to bounce back strongly in her second bout against the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Needing a win, an aggressive and positive Salisbury started well, scoring quick points with the UAE fighter unable to find a response, and eventually winning 5-0. Despite another loss, this time to Norwegian Annika Saelid (2-0) results dictated that a count back was required and Salisbury’s superior points tally saw her through to a semi-final with Sakura Sawashima from Japan.
Safe passage through to the semi-finals meant that Salisbury was guaranteed a medal but Sawashima ensured it was bronze with a dominant display, running out a 9-1 victor.
Speaking after winning bronze, a clearly delighted Salisbury said: “It’s a surreal moment, completely unbelievable,” admitted Salisbury. “It was touch and go in the group stages but we didn’t expect it [the Greek/UAE bout] to play out as it did and we just sat there and waited but it was the points I got against the UAE fighter that got me through.
“I haven’t medalled at a European or World Championships before so this is incredible. The whole experience has been amazing, how other sports approach performance and adapt to environments, it’s been a great learning experience.”
Dubois’ gold brought to an end 12 days of competition for Team GB’s 43-athlete delegation, with medals coming in eight different sports at the third iteration of the Youth Olympic Games, an event which saw over one million fans visit the four parks across the city.
Jack Whitaker kicked off the medal haul in the equestrian mixed team event on day three before the team enjoyed more mixed international team success for Jess Clarke (silver) and Adam Tobin (bronze) in gymnastics.
But it was Finn Hawkins’ consistency in the men’s windsurfing which brought home Team GB’s first individual medal, picking up bronze.
Amelie Morgan continued her successful 2018, following up five medals at the Junior European with another three in Buenos Aires, all-around and floor silver and bronze on beam.
Silver medals for Andrew Stamp and Anthony Harding in trampoline and diving respectively were then book-ended on an exciting last couple of days as all four of Team GB’s boxers medalled and Lauren Salisbury won a bronze medal.
Caroline Dubois – Boxing: Women’s Lightweight
Karol Itauma – Boxing: Men’s Light Heavyweight
Ivan Hope Price – Boxing: Men’s Flyweight
Jess Clarke – Gymnastics: Mixed Team Event
Anthony Harding – Diving: Men’s 3m Springboard
Amelie Morgan – Artistic Gymnastics: Women’s All-Around
Amelie Morgan – Artistic Gymnastics: Women’s Floor
Andrew Stamp – Men’s Trampoline
Jack Whitaker – Equestrian: Mixed Team Event
Hassan Azim – Boxing: Men’s Light Welterweight
Harry Birchill and Sean Flynn – Cycling: Men’s Combined Event
Finn Hawkins – Windsurfing: Men’s Techno 293+
Amelie Morgan – Artistic Gymnastics: Beam
Lauren Salisbury – Karate: +59kg Kumite
Adam Tobin – Gymnastics: Mixed Team Event
Image credit: Team GB/Lumix UK