IFMA runs a strong youth programme, with an annual Youth World Championships as the focus, and a number of those young athletes graduated to senior ranks at the Cancun 2018 championships. Some even won medals on their first outing, proving the value of competition at a young age.
Every year the Youth Championships has grown, with up to 1,000 young athletes expected for this year’s event in Bangkok, Thailand in August. Last year, three rings were needed in action every day to make room for the numbers competing. Athletes are divided by age and then within that by weight division so for example Age 11-12 45kg, 51kg and so on.
Last year the 51kg world champion in women’s Apasara Koson, Thailand was no stranger to the podium, having won gold at the 2016 youth championships.
And this year was no different. In the men’s divisions Alexander Chavez (Peru) took gold at 48kg at Competitive Level after a tough bout with Hong Kong champion Tat Fai Yiu. Alexander previously won gold and silver at Youth level.
In the women’s divisions Zoe Putorak (Australia) took a silver medal to add to her gold medal from the 2016 youth championships.
Zoe faced former world champion Anastasia Nepianidi in the final, and showed the value of her youth experience in her determination. She told IFMA before her first bout that she was expecting the women to be stronger than what she was used to, but also excited to go for gold. And how close she came.
The next youth championships is in Bangkok in August this year.