Argentina’s hockey 5s team, the favourites for the gold medal, got a very special guest during their third match at Buenos Aires 2018 - Julieta Jankunas, a member of the senior national team ‘Las Leonas’.
For Jankunas, the Youth Olympic Games have a very special and personal meaning. She was part of the junior team that won the bronze medal at Nanjing 2014 and she was the top scorer in the tournament, getting 19 goals. She was only 15 years old at the time.
"I have the best memories of the Youth Games, what I experienced there was incredible," Jankunas said. "If I could, I would go through it again, 1,000 times.
"The Youth Games motivated me. It was almost like jumping into the life of a professional player, being careful with the meals, exercising a lot,” she added. “It was then when I knew that this wasn’t only about hockey. I chose to follow that path to achieve my dream of playing for ‘Las Leonas’.”
Argentine field hockey player Julieta Jankunas watches the junior team’s victory from the stands. (Photo: Santiago Abdala / Buenos Aires 2018)
Among the things that Jankunas remembers most fondly about Nanjing 2014 is the Youth Olympic Village.
"It was beautiful to live there, where you get to share a home with people from all over the world and meet a lot of people. But that’s also the place where you are when you go in search of the dream, and your goal is to win a medal,” Jankunas said. “Getting to be the top scorer at Nanjing was something unbelievable. I still cannot believe it. I wish I could live it again."
Jankunas was part of the Argentine field hockey team that won a bronze medal at Nanjing 2014. (Photo: Santiago Abdala / Buenos Aires 2018)
Speaking about Argentina’s women’s hockey 5s team at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, Jankunas said: "I see them very well. They’ve trained a lot and they are well prepared for this. My message to all the other athletes is that they have to enjoy this, to feel the Argentine support, which is something unique, as well as the encouragement of their families."
For Jankunas, the Youth Olympic Games were a huge springboard in her career. After Nanjing 2014, her team won the 2016 Women's Hockey Junior World Cup in Chile. And this year she played his first senior World Cup in London. She scored Las Leonas’ first goal in that tournament, becoming the youngest player to accomplish this feat, at age 19.
"Playing for Las Leoncitas and playing for Las Leonas are two different things. You get different sensations and feelings,” she said. “But when you’re wearing Argentina’s shirt you just want to honour it, so the passion is the same."
From the Youth Olympic Games to the World Cup, Jankunas’ career blossomed in just a few years. Her dream of playing for the national team came true and she now hopes to see Las Leoncitas accomplishing their dreams at Buenos Aires 2018. In the meantime, she is here to watch and support them.
Click for the full schedule of the hockey5s at 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
Click to watch the matches live.