That’s a wrap

21 January 2007

As the sun sets on the fifth and final day of competition, it is safe to say that the 2007 Australian Youth Olympic Festival has been the best yet.

Crowds were out in record numbers, more countries than ever marched in the Opening Ceremony and winter sports were introduced into the schedule for the first time.

Japan’s impressive performances in the pool has meant they will be taking home a swag of medals, much to the excitement of their coach, Yosuki Mori.

“We have won five gold at this event!” Mori said.

2007 saw Uzbekistan’s debut into the AYOF with three swimmers and a manager all having an amazing experience.

“I met a lot of good people here. I met a lot of good friends and the competition was perfect. The village was perfect too. We liked it very much. We hope that we can compete here again,” 15-year-old Sultan Jabborov said.

Likewise, Great Britain were new to the AYOF coming out in full force with a team of 181 athletes across a number of sports.

“The team spirit was a big thing shown and the way that they bonded with their colleagues from other sports in an environment that they hadn’t been in before. They excelled themselves. It has been a great experience,” British team administrator Sarah Johns said.

For two New Zealand team-mates the Opening Ceremony was a clear stand out.

“The Opening Ceremony made you feel like you were involved in something really important,” swimmers Katie Curd and Ashley Rupapera commented.

“I have never been to something like that and it was so much fun to experience,” agreed 16-year-old Canadian swimmer Paige Schultz.

There was many future superstars uncovered across a range of sports. Western Australian sprinter Jared Bezuidenhout who took out the popular 100m sprint is just one of them.

“This was my first international competition and it was a great experience,” 16-year-old Bezuidenhout said.

The future of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival has been secured after Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates announced the Festival would be granted a 25 per cent funding boost for the 2009 and 2011 events.

Coates declared the 2007 Festival a resounding success and worthy of the $1,000,000 funding increase. Coates wants the money to go towards more sports, more competitors, and most importantly, attracting more competing countries.

"We want the standard to keep going up, we want international competition in every sport here, not just Australians," Coates told reporters at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre, having just watched 14-year-old Cate Campbell smash Alice Mills' under-16 Australian record for the 50m women's freestyle.

"When we set it up (in 2001), I was thinking it was more an event for Australian kids, but the world has moved on," Coates said.

"It's now critical that we attract good competition for each of these sports to differentiate this from just Australian championships or an interstate event."

Although the curtain has been closed on this year’s festivities it is safe to say that the event has been a great success and has built friendships and memories that will last a lifetime for all 2200 athletes and officials from the 20 participating nations. 

Nicky Park

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