By Caoilte de Barra
Over the last year, the Youth World Championships pathway has been evident as more Youth World medalists continue to graduate to the junior ranks in IMMAF.
The 2022 European and Asian Championships, in particular, showcased some of the top talents from the youth ranks excelling in the junior divisions, with athletes such as Anastasiia Holinko and Danil Gubin continuing to add to their IMMAF accolades.
Over twenty Youth World medalists are registered to compete at the 2022 World Championships, with many looking to create history by winning a junior world gold medal in Belgrade.
One of the most credentialed athletes in the junior ranks, Gadzhi Gadzhiev, could add a fifth IMMAF medal at the 2022 World Championships. The 20-year-old came through the ranks at the 2019 Youth World Championships, taking gold as a middleweight. He has since become a stalwart on the Bahrain team, winning two continental gold medals and was involved in the team that won the MMA SuperCup.
Viktor Ivanov was another standout at the 2019 Youth World Championships, taking gold in the lightweight division. The Bulgarian prospect is one of three Youth World medalists from the nation heading to the Worlds. The junior lightweight entry first appeared in the junior ranks at the 2022 European Championships, where he fell short in his second bout, denying him a medal.
The Irish team has been one of the most prominent nations in the youth ranks, and the athletes who have progressed to the junior team have impressed, including Max Lally, Jordan Scully and Kiya O’Sullivan. Sarah Elliott-Sheridan is the latest youth World champion to come through the ranks. She has been building up experience on the regional scene, including bouts with national teammate Kerry Ann Vernon, and will compete in the bantamweight division.
Ukraine’s Anastasiia Holinko is a shining example of an athlete that has progressed within IMMAF. After winning gold in the Youth B category in 2019, she added another at Youth A in 2021 before her leap to junior last year. Her performances at the 2022 European Championships made her one of the standouts at the competition, where she took flyweight gold.
Abigail Alvarez is another two-time youth World champion headed to Belgrade. The United States junior atomweight entry won Youth A gold in two weight divisions in consecutive years. Her most recent coming at the 2022 Youth World Championships. The upcoming competition is set to be first in the junior ranks, and she could join Holinko in continuing the streak of gold medals.