By Caoilte de Barra
The 2022 Youth World Championships are right around the corner, and many athletes are graduating through the ranks, moving up a category from the previous year. This is natural, given the age restrictions for each category. However, it highlights the development of these young athletes as they return and progress year on year.
For those between the ages of 14 and 17, it was not just about returning. They also had to meet the minimum grade for the competition in order to compete. The standard increased as this year’s minimum technical level required of those athletes is “Orange” grade, while “Yellow” grade remains the requirement for 12-13-year-olds.
With many of the participants who earned medals in 2021 coming back for a second consecutive year, let’s take a further look at five medalists who are advancing to a new division in Abu Dhabi.
Lariah Gill (United States)
Gill competed in the Youth C 48 kg division in 2021, where she won gold for the United States after winning all four of her bouts. The two-time national champion is progressing to the Youth B 52 kg division for the 2022 Youth World Championships.
Ahead of her return to the IMMAF platform, Gill has been getting more experience by competing regionally. She also got to learn from UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza at a seminar in preparation for the fast-approaching tournament.
Bohdan Chornei (Ukraine)
Ukraine was ahead of the rest last year as they topped the medals table. The exceptional team of fifty-nine athletes features many familiar faces who are continuing their path through the IMMAF ranks. Bodhan Chornei is amongst the names as he steps up to Youth A strawweight from Youth B 48 kg, where he won gold.
The 2021 World Champion will be joined in the division by teammate Heorhii Hudz, who won gold at Youth B 44 kg last year and is also moving on from Youth B.
Stefani Petrova (Bulgaria)
In 2021, Petrova won one of three silver medals for Bulgaria when competing in the Youth B 52 kg division. Petrova outpointed her opponents in all three of her victories before losing out to gold medalist Mariia Klein.
This year she is entering the Youth A atomweight division and will not cross paths with Klein, who is in the Youth A flyweight division. In the build-up to the 2022 Youth Worlds, the national champion has been actively competing internationally in wrestling for Bulgaria too.
Stefan Alexandru Loboda (Romania)
Loboda is one of two bronze medalists representing Romania for a second running. Last year he impressed when competing in the Youth B 77.1 kg division and is moving up to Youth A Middleweight for the 2022 Youth World Championships.
This will be his third time competing at the Youth World Championships since his debut in 2019. He is part of a larger Romania squad this time around as the federation continues to invest in their young athletes.
Alison Syron (Ireland)
After settling for bronze last time, Syron is back and moving from the Youth B 57 kg to the Youth A Strawweight 52.2 kg. She has been continuing to progress in the sport and won a national gold to secure her spot on the national team. Outside of MMA, she has also been competing in Muay Thai, winning titles in the UK and Ireland.