Athletics team raring to compete
The Youth Olympic Games athletics competition gets underway on Tuesday with 17 Australians in action over the six days at Bishan Stadium in Singapore.
Australian coach and Sydney 2000 Olympian Matt Beckenham expects the competition to be of the highest level with Australians in the hunt for medals.
“To make the Team these athletes had to win under/18 Nationals and spots were limited so they are a very talented group,” Beckenham said after their final training session.
“This group of Australian athletes is very strong across the range of disciplines especially the technical events like hurdles, jumps and throws which is a credit to Athletics Australia and their focus.
“I would expect multiple top 8 finishes (A Final), half a dozen top fives and from that hopefully three or so medals.”
Beckenham was quick to point out that rankings can mean nothing at a meet like this but there is no denying the talent of the Australians in Singapore.
“At a meet with this age group anything can happen but our main chances would be Liz Parnov (pole vault), Nick Hough (110mH), Damien Birkenhead (shot put), Elliott Lang (javelin) and Raheen Williams (400m hurdles).
“Saying that, the whole squad is settled well, fit and raring to go.”
Parnov, 16, is the national open champion and her 4.40m clearance at nationals secured her Commonwealth Games selection. The Team flagbearer comes in ranked behind Angelica Bengtsson of Sweden who has a season best of 4.47m.
Hough qualified in the 100m, 200m and hurdles however athletes are limited to one individual event so he chose the hurdles. He has the second fastest season and personal best time (13.40) of the 17 man field and he has been in personal best shape before leaving Australia.
Birkenhead looks set to break the national under 18 record of 20.77m set in 1998 for the 5kg shot. He is after a throw of 21.50m in Singapore and it could take that to get to the medals. China’s Men Li has thrown 21.90m this season and makes the 132kg Australian look small!
In the rarely run 1000m Jenny Blundell has her eye on Georgie Clarke’s national record of 2:43.65 set just before Clarke made her Olympic debut in Sydney. Blundell has been running PBs in training and loving the Singapore experience.
Grant Gwynne (2000m Steeplechase) and walker Blake Steele (10,000m walk) are slowly getting used to the hot humid conditions. Birkenhead ‘loves how the heat makes my muscles feel’.
The idea behind the Youth Olympic Games is to give athletes top international competition with the experience and distractions of an Olympic Village and environment.
“The key task for our athletes is to deal with competing on the world stage and produce personal best performances,” Beckenham said.
The first athletes in action on Tuesday morning’s qualification session are Brandon Starc (high jump), Liz Parnov (pole vault), Michelle Jenneke (100m hurdles), Demii Maher-Smith (long jump), Nick Hough (110m hurdles) and Luke Greco (400m).
The full athletics section of the Australian Youth Olympic Team is:
Damien Birkinhead (17, VIC, shot put)
Monica Brennan (16, VIC, 200m)
Jenny Blundell (16, NSW, 1000m)
Brodie Cross (16, VIC, pole vault)
Luke Greco (17, VIC, 400m)
Grant Gwynne (17, QLD, 2000m steeplechase)
Nicholas Hough (16, NSW, 110m hurdles)
Michelle Jenneke (17, NSW, 100m Hurdles)
Kurt Jenner (17, NSW, long jump)
Elliot Lang (16, NSW, javelin)
Demii Maher-Smith (15, QLD, long jump)
Liz Parnov (16, WA, pole vault)
Prabhjot Rai (17, VIC, shot put)
Brandon Starc (16, NSW, high jump)
Blake Steele (17, SA, 10000m race walk)
Rick Whitehead (17, VIC, 1000m)
Raheen Williams (17, WA, 400m hurdles)