Young athletes unite in mixed teams

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The Olympic flag was raised at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore on Wednesday, but this was not the opening ceremony. It was the awarding ceremony for the fencing team event.

The fencing team event on Wednesday saw a mixture of different countries compete for their respective continents in teams of six - three male and three female - with foil, sabre and epee equally represented.

Europe enjoyed a firm domination in this novelty event with Europe 1 and Europe 2 taking gold and silver. The top two seeded teams started the final bout strongly, matching each other hit for hit before Europe 1 broke away to triumph 30-24.

Europe 1 had four Youth Olympic gold medallists from the individual events - Italians Marco Fichera, Edoardo Luperi, Camilla Mancini, as well as Yana Egoryan of Russia, and silver medallists Alberta Santuccio and Leonardo Affede, both of whom are from Italy.

Being the only non-Italian athlete in the team, Cadet female individual sabre gold medallist Yana Egoryan did not let a communication barrier get in the way of picking up her second gold medal.

"I feel like a star," said Egoryan. "It was hard to communicate as I only speak Russian and they (her teammates) speak Italian. I had no idea what they were talking about, but with body language it was OK. The team worked."

America 1 walked away with the bronze after beating Asia-Oceania 1 30-24. Team American 1's Alanna Goldie of Canada missed out on bronze in cadet female individual foil but was happy with the final result.

"I was hoping to get a medal, and now we've got one. I'm speechless," said Goldie.

The mixed team event give the athletes from different NOCs (National Olympic Committees) not only one more chance to fight for a medal, but a chance to communicate with each other either with linguistic language or with sports language.

And this kind of mixed team competition could also be found in the equestrian arena as three continental teams are tied on four penalties after round one of the equestrian jumping team event at the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre on Wednesday.

Europe, Australasia and Africa each had two riders complete clear rounds setting up an epic showdown when the medals will be decided after round 2 on Friday.

Africa wasted a golden opportunity to end the day in the outright lead when Lybian Abduladim Mlitan, who looked very comfortable throughout his entire ride, knocked the last rail only metres from the finish.

"I was very happy but also quite disappointed," said Mlitan.

Australian Thomas McDermott was one of the riders to successfully negotiate the 12 obstacles. He did it with the added pressure of riding last for his team and needing a strong performance to keep Australasia in front.

"It put a little bit more pressure on me but once I got out there I just had to ride like I did in training," he said.

Australasia surprised many to go into the final round with a share of the lead and McDermott believes a lot of the thanks go to Omani rider Sultan Al Tooqi who has demonstrated rapid improvement in the last couple of days.

Despite the countries that make up the Australasian group being geographically far apart, Al Tooqi said this did not affect team spirit. "We win together and we lose together," he said.

The round 2 will begin with Australasia, Europe and Africa on 4 penalties, Asia and South America on 12 penalties and North and Central America and the Caribbean Islands with a lot of ground to make up on 16 penalties.

The mixed team event of Archery also started with each team made up of two athletes from different NOCs. After Wednesday's first round elimination, 16 pair will compete for the gold on Thursday.

Thursday will also see the mixed team relay competition in triathlon, which will feature four athletes in a team to finish a 250m swim in open water, a 7km cycle ride, and a 1.7km run each.

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