Two years ago, they competed in the first Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore. This month, the Netherlands’ Twan Van Gendt, 20, and Mexico’s Ingrid Drexel, 19, will be lining up at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“I never thought of London when I was in Singapore,” marvels Ingrid, who finished third in the women’s road time trial in Singapore. “I was aiming for Brazil 2016, but this year, my coach, Nelson Delgado, told me there was a chance for London in the road event so we aimed for that and things started getting serious. Finally, I was chosen and I felt really proud.”
On Sunday 29 July, Ingrid will rub shoulders with the world’s elite in the women’s road race through the streets of London and she will be drawing on the experience she gained at the YOG.
“I think that experience was awesome and all the athletes who attended got the idea of what Olympic Games look like. I would recommend the YOG to young riders. You get to experience a whole new world and it’s an experience you wouldn’t want to miss. You get to meet people from all around the world and get a hint of what going to the Olympic Games feels like.”
Looking forward to London, she added: “The Olympics is a dream come true. This selection means everything to me. Beyond going to the Olympics, it means representing your country. I feel really proud and glad.”
Her dream is shared by Twan - his second place in the BMX at the Youth Olympic Games helped his Dutch team to win silver in the overall cycling competition. The YOG cycling competition is unique in that it is a team event, with the young athletes competing not only in their own speciality, but other cycling disciplines as well.
“Everyone who gets the opportunity to go to the YOG should grab it with both hands,” exclaimed the Dutch BMX specialist, who also competed in the road race in Singapore. “I think it will have helped me because it gave me the Olympic experience in a lighter form. There was an opening ceremony with a lot of athletes from all over the world and from different sports. You hear about how they train and learn a lot. And last but not least, I made a lot of new friends from all over the world!”
Twan is no stranger to major international events, having competed in the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup and the UCI BMX World Championships. “But,” he says, “the Olympics is the highest achievement for a BMX rider in Holland and therefore it is more than a dream for me. When I was in Singapore, I was only dreaming of it and now I am going!”
Now that’s YOG spirit! Good luck to all the YOG athletes competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games!