Records, future stars emerge from AYOF
Records were broken, future stars were born and lessons learnt at the sixth Australian Youth Olympic Festival.
While no official medal tally was kept, Australia understandably dominated an event in which they supplied approximately one third of competitors.
Australians broke nine AYOF records in athletics and 17 were smashed in the pool, none more impressive than 1500m freestyle prospect Mack Horton.
Records were also broken in other aspects – athletes from rugby sevens, triathlon and shooting competed in open air during the hottest day on record in Sydney on Friday, when the temperature reached 45.8 degrees celsius.
The heat, a series of road crashes, and a venue clash with the Big Day Out festival created some major transport headaches for organisers.
Athletics, due to start at 3.30pm (AEDT) on Friday, wasn’t called off until 4.30pm and competitors had to wait a further two hours to board public buses.
Australia’s swim coach for the meet Bernie Mulroy, noted it was all part of the Olympic experience.
“We didn’t have any two-hour (transport) delays, but on that really hot day we nearly had to catch cabs,” Mulroy said.
“And that’s what they were told from the outset – there’s going to be challenges you’ll have to face here that you wouldn’t ordinarily deal with. It was a multifaceted experience.”
Meanwhile, the Japanese flag was lifted upside down during one medal ceremony.
For most of the 1500 athletes however, the hiccups were learning experiences and most gave the AYOF a big tick, with the opening ceremony viewed as the biggest highlight.
“I was at the airport farewelling many Australian and international athletes, and the smiles on their faces was such a rich reward for being part of this,” Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) director of sport Fiona de Jong told AAP on Monday.
“Not only do they get access to good competition, but it’s the friendships that they forged that hopefully will last into their future.”
For the AOC, de Jong said the revelation of future stars justified the $4.4 million investment event.
“I certainly think we unearthed some young talented athletes, and the AOC will be working with our national sporting federations to nurture that in the coming years,” she said.
“Hopefully this is the first step in a very long and successful Olympic journey for these kids.”
AYOF ambassador Kim Crow, who is also chairwoman of the AOC Athletes’ Commission, noted the most useful lessons came away from competition.
“What’s good about this is that it has an opening ceremony and a whole lot of other things … that almost distract you from your event,” Crow said.
“But that’s the Olympics.”
Most of the young athletes will now prepare for various world championships in their respective sports.
The Rio Olympics remain a common goal, but in 2014 a 100-strong Australian team will be led by chef de mission Susie O’Neill to Nanjing for the Youth Olympic Games.© AAP 2013