Editor’s note: This post was updated on Jan. 22, 2020.
Almost 80 of Canada’s most elite teen athletes flew to Switzerland this month to compete in the third edition of the Youth Winter Olympic Games. The 2020 Games, which opened in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Jan. 9 and wrap on Jan. 22, brought together 1,880 teenaged athletes from around the globe to compete in over 80 winter sports in 16 disciplines, including four that made their Olympic debut: mixed-nationality 3×3 ice hockey, a women’s doubles competition in luge, a women’s Nordic combined ski event, and ski mountaineering.
The event was completely gender-equal, with the same number of male and female athletes competing.
But there’s a lot more to the youth version of the Games than competition alone.
The multi-sport event, which is organized by the International Olympic Committee, brings together top athletes between the ages of 15 and 18 from around the world. Youth can also participate as reporters, ambassadors, and role models. Competitive events are modeled after the Olympic Games.
This year’s Youth Olympics included a number of new competitive events, as well as educational activities for participants focused on three main areas: protecting the athletes, improving performance, and assisting the athletes outside sport.
Team Canada was well-represented, with 78 athletes competing in curling, luge, ski mountaineering, cross-country skiing, bobsleigh, skeleton, biathlon, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ski cross, ski jumping, alpine skiing, snowboarding, speed skating, and—of course—hockey.
Related read: Questions to ask your kids while watching the Olympics
Team Canada won eight medals in all:
- Freestyle skier Andrew Longino (Calgary, Alta.) won gold in the men’s halfpipe. His final run score of 94.00 was eight points better than the next competitor, yet less than a day earlier Longino had to cope with the disappointment of failing to qualify for the men’s freeski slopestyle event. He credited the steady support of his parents to help him cope with the stress of competition: “My dad told me I shouldn’t be nervous and that he’s proud of me regardless of what happens,” Longino told a CBC reporter when asked about his win. He was Canada’s flagbearer at the closing ceremony on Jan. 22.
- Snowboarder Liam Brearley (Gravenhurst, Ont.) won three medals: silver in the men’s slopestyle, bronze in the men’s halfpipe, and bronze in the men’s big air final. His family almost missed the big moment after bad weather grounded their flights out of Montreal and Toronto. Luckily for them, high winds in the mountains postponed Brearley’s first event, which bought them time to get there and cheer for him in person after all.
- Luge team Natalie Corless and Caitlin Nash (Whistler, B.C.) won Canada’s first medal of the event: silver in the women’s doubles, which was the first of its kind in Youth Olympics history and took place on a unique track made of natural ice and snow. They previously made history as the first all-woman double luge team at the World Cup.
- Short-track speed skater Florence Brunelle (Trois-Rivières, Que.) also took home two medals for Canada, winning bronze medals in both the women’s 500-metre and 1000-metre events.
- The men’s hockey team beat Finland 4-2 to win bronze.
Other noteworthy names at this year’s event included:
- 16-year-old curler Lauren Rajala (Garson, Ont.), who carried the flag for Canada at the opening ceremonies. Rajala won gold at both the Canada Winter Games for Team Ontario and the Canadian Under-18 Championship for Team Northern Ontario.
- Ema Chlepkova and Findlay Eyre (Calgary, Alta.), who competed in ski mountaineering in the sport’s Olympic debut—a radical and demanding new sport that involves racing using both uphill and downhill skiing skills as well as mountaineering techniques.
- Sasha Masson (Whitehorse, Yukon), following in the footsteps of his parents, Canadian Olympic cross-country skiers, Alain Masson and Lucy Steele-Masson.
- Another athlete with a famous father: hockey player Mats Lindgren (North Vancouver, B.C.), whose NHL dad played for the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, and Vancouver Canucks.
- Matthew Savoie (St. Albert, Alta.), one of Team Canada’s youngest hockey players, whose prowess on the ice has already started to draw comparisons to the likes of Sidney Crosby.
Like the Olympic Games, the YOG are held every four years. The first summer edition was held in Singapore from Aug. 14-26, 2010, and the first winter edition was held in Austria from January 13-22, 2012.
Photo of Andrew Longino courtesy of International Olympic Committee.