In 2005, the third edition of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival was held with 25 nations attending, with Oceania comprising an additional seven countries. Over 1200 athletes competed across 14 sports at venues throughout Sydney.
John Coates, President of the Australian Olympic Committee, was impressed by what he saw while touring the venues, and reinforced the AOC’s commitment to up and coming Australian athletes.
“While we concentrate most of our spending on elite athletes,” he said, “we recognise that to spend money on the elite youth is, firstly, the right thing to do, and secondly a good investment in the future.”
“The AYOF is a great opportunity for the younger athletes to compete in a multi sport environment, and to experience an athlete’s village atmosphere. It is also a good opportunity for us to educate them on anti-doping.”
“Furthermore, the competition here is very good, and our young elite athletes can experience international competition without the expense of going overseas.”
Some of Australia’s top Olympians acted as ambassadors for each sport on the program including gold medallists Susie O’Neill (swimming), Suzy Balogh (shooting), Stephen Wooldridge (cycling), Wendy Schaeffer (equestrian) and basketball silver medallists Trish Fallon and Belinda Snell.
China’s Zhou Heng produced a stunning performance in dominating the men’s hammer throw, despite the unfavourable blustery conditions. He won the event with a spectacular throw of 71.26m, more than 18m further than his nearest rival.
The New Zealand cycling camp had nothing but praise for the event with coach, Lyndon Cooney labelling it “an excellent experience for not only the athletes but for all coaches.”
“It has been great to touch base with other coaches from around the world and swap ideas. We have now seen where the level is at in International competition and it has helped us answer some of the questions as to why Australia is so good,” Cooney continued.
The success of the Youth Olympic Festival was not in who won the medals but how the competition brought the best out in these young athletes.
The experience is a great education and understanding of the rigors of sport and the dedication and talent needed to reach the top that has been greatly improved.
The companionship, graciousness, friendliness and support to and of one another are the real success stories of the Festival.