Around 5,000 young athletes took part in Brazil's Youth School Games last month ©COB

The largest Youth School Games ever held in Brazil has taken place in Natal, featuring around 5,000 athletes from over 2,000 schools.

The event, organised by the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) since 2005, featured two different age groups this year for the first time.

They were 12 to 14 years of age and 15 to 17.

As well as the thousands of athletes, 464 referees and 220 volunteers helped the event go ahead, which also featured a delegation of student athletes from Japan, as an advanced thanks for the cities that will host Team Brazil at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

"With each passing year, the School Games are more robust and contributing increasingly to the training of these young people," COB executive manager of sport development Kenji Saito said.

"Increasingly, the Games are consolidating as one of the main objectives in the calendar of competitions of this age group.

"There have been a lot of athletes who are already part of the national teams of the category and who compete in the main international circuits in different modalities,"

Sarah Menezes won Olympic judo gold at London 2012 having previously taken part in the Youth School Games ©Getty Images
Sarah Menezes won Olympic judo gold at London 2012 having previously taken part in the Youth School Games ©Getty Images

The Games is used as a means of spotting future talent and COB set up a "monitoring base" in Natal during the event to help spot future stars.

COB claim their objective is to "further advance and establish a sustainable model for the detection of talent and development of the Brazilian sport base".

Among those to pass through the base were coach of the Brazil men’s handball team Washington Nunes, Camila Ferezin from the Brazilian Confederation of Gymnastics and Olympic swimming  silver medallist Ricardo Prado.

Athletes to have come through the School Games to achieve senior success in the past include Olympic and world judo champions Sarah Menezes and Mayra Aguiar.

Menezes won the Olympic gold in the women's under-49 kilograms category at London 2012, while Aguiar claimed bronze medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016 in the under-78kg category.

"In addition to the revelation of talents for the Brazilian Olympic sport, the objective of the Youth School Games is to contribute to the social insertion and strengthening of the citizenship of all young participants, creating opportunities for students/athletes to meet new cities and cultures," Games general coordinator, André Mattos said.