The future of Australian sport looks bright after an outstanding 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games campaign came to an end in Pune, India overnight, with Australia winning 65 medals against world-class youth competition.
Finishing second on the medal standings behind host nation India, Australia concluded the seven-day competition with 24 gold, 18 silver and 23 bronze, and re-wrote the Games record books on 18 occasions.
Once again Australia’s swimmers dominated in the pool, led by backstroker Jared Christie-Goldthorpe who scooped five gold medals and smashed all five Games records in the process.
The 18-year-old from Malabar in New South Wales, snared gold in the boys 100m and 200m backstroke before joining his team mates in the victorious 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle and 4 x100m medley teams.
In recognition of his achievements, Christie-Goldthorpe was bestowed with the honour of carrying the Australian flag in the last night’s closing ceremony.
Fifteen year-old Jessica Legge was also impressive, sweeping up all three girl’s breaststroke gold medals, a bronze in the 200m individual medley, and another gold in the 4x100m medley relay.
In total, Australia’s swimmers won 18 gold, 11 silver and eight bronze medals, an outstanding performance from a team of youngsters determined to take the next step through the ranks of Australian and world swimming.
Australia’s athletics squad also displayed promising potential, led by the throwers who each recorded a personal best in winning three gold, a silver and two bronze medals.
Vika Lolo from New South Wales was the standout performer, collecting gold in the discus and silver in the shot put.
Sam Baines (boy’s 110m Hurdles), Blake Lucas (boy’s pole vault), Julian Wruck (boy’s discus) and Bianca Maurer (girl’s javelin) also contributed to Australia’s gold medal rush.
Talented tennis duo Jade Hopper (VIC) and Monika Wejnert (QLD) combined to win the girl’s doubles gold medal match in front of a parochial home Indian crowd. The two Aussie girls played superbly, keeping their cool in the frenzied environment, defeating their Indian opponents 6-4, 4-6, 6-1. It was Wejnert’s second medal of the Games, having won the bronze medal in the women’s singles on Thursday.
Australia’s boxers also produced impressive results against world class competition from India and the British nations. Ibrahim Balla (57kg class – feather) packed a silver medal into his suitcase, whilst Jai Alexander (60kg class – light) and Jesse Ross (69kg class - welter) will arrive home with bronze medals in their possession from their respective divisions.
Australia’s shooters collected three bronze medals courtesy of Hayley Chapman (25m Sport Pistol), Michael McNabb (Trap Shooting) and Aaron Wilson (25m Sport Pistol).
Ali Harmouch, who only took up the sport of wrestling three years ago after watching professional wrestling on late night television, won the bronze medal in the 69kg division.
Team General Manager, and multiple Olympic and Commonwealth medallist, Petria Thomas was delighted with the performances and maturity displayed by her talented team of teenagers.
“I’m very proud of this team. For many of them, this was their first international competition and the first time they were competing overseas, and they handled themselves very well,” applauded Thomas.
“They adapted to the different conditions and the different culture, and got on with the job at hand.
“They have now got a taste of what a major international competition can be like as they head into the senior ranks.”
Held from 12 – 18 October 2008, the 100-strong Australian team were amongst 1300 rising stars from 71 Commonwealth nations, who contested nine sports on the program – athletics, badminton, boxing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, tennis, wrestling and weightlifting.
The Commonwealth Youth Games have provided a launching pad for a number of renowned international athletes, including 100m hurdles Olympic silver medallist Sally McLellan and three-time Olympic and four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, swimmer Jodie Henry.
The first Commonwealth Youth Games were held in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2000 where 733 athletes from 14 countries competed in eight sports. In Bendigo, over 1000 athletes and officials from 22 countries took part in the 10 sport programme.