Olympic Youth Festivla 22-1-2005 Day 2

China dominate day two of the AYOF Athletics

22 January 2005 | 5.46am

China, the most powerful youth track and field team in the world, dominated day two of the track and field competition winning seven gold medals. The Chinese team provided tremendous competition for the Australians and New Zealanders who also have many high quality youth age athletes.

The athletes were honoured by the presence of one of the luminaries of Australian sport, John Coates, the President of the Australian Olympic Committee, who provided so much invaluable support to the AYOF.

He was suitably impressed by what he had seen while touring some of 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.”

Competing in her second AYOF, Australia’s throwing star, Dani Samuels was back in the circle on day two. On this occasion she was up against the clear number 1 discus thrower in the World, China’s Tan Jian. But unlike the shot the previous day, where Samuels sprung a surprise, China’s Tan Jian stamped her authority in the very first round with a lifetime best throw of 57.01m. Effectively the competition was over, but Samuels rallied well reaching a near personal best of 51.80m.

“I was happy with my result but my technique wasn’t too good. My first throw was good and my finishing phase was very good, but I wasn’t happy with the start of my throws.” Said Tan Jian. “It was a PB in competition but not overall. I have thrown 59.70m back home in training.”

Tan Jian is from Sichun, a town in China’s west. But this winter (last three months) she moved to Beijing so she could train with an elite squad at the centre there. She was shy about what her dreams for the future are: “First I will try for 65m,” she said. But the Beijing Olympics is definitely in her sights as she is ranked 11th overall in China and has a lot of improvements she believes she can make to her technique.

One of the undoubted stars of the meet was the Sunshine Coast’s Chris Noffke. Noffke is ranked No. 1 in the World at under 18 level and had no trouble beating a competitive field, which included World No. 2 Lin Huadeng. By leaping 7.61m he set a new meet record and, despite the fact that was a little short of his best, Chris was happy to be performing so well so early in his preparation for July’s World Youth Championships in Morocco. “It’s just the start of the season,” he said, “and I’m just starting to freshen up a bit.”

In particular Chris has benefited from working with Olympian Bronwyn Thompson who, as well as providing priceless technical hints, has passed on an invaluable message. “She just shows that dreams can come true if you believe you can do it,” said Noffke.

Aged just 15-years, the prospects of Sydney shot putter Emanuele Fuamatu look exciting. He has added over a metre to his personal best in the last few weeks, under the watchful eye of excellent technical coach, Merv Kemp. Fuamatu claimed the shot with an amazing putt of 19.16m (a meet record) and defeated the favourite China’s Fan Wei and Brisbane’s Joe Stevens.

It was also a new meet record for Sophia Begg in the Women’s High Jump. In a tense final, Begg set a new personal best and broke the meet record on her final attempt at 1.86m, having already secured the gold on her previous jump. Second went to China’s Chen Xing Juan and third to Lauren Ford who both cleared 1.75, with Chen Xing Juan claiming the silver on count back.

Adding to the thrill for Begg, the record she broke was previously held by her former training partner and Olympian Petina Price, who also presented the medals. Begg thanked her coach Ian Garrett, before paying tribute to Price. “It was really good to receive the medal from her,” she said. “She is my idol.”

The name Liam Zamel-Paez is one to remember for the future. The 16-year-old Brisbane high jumper leapt to a personal best of 2.16m to smash the field and be ranked No.2 in the world for his age. Fellow Australian’s Brendan Sutcliffe (2.10m) and Kane Brigg (2.04m) took the silver and bronze medals.

China’s world No.1 Huang Haiqiang began the competition as the hot favourite but sadly injured his ankle during the warm-up and pulled out after clearing 2.01m on his third jump, a result that collected fourth place

Zamel-Paez easily cleared all heights up to 2.10m, where he needed two attempts, before stamping his authority on the field with first-time clearances at 2.13m and 2.16m. He said his major goal for the day was to clear 2.10m and then hopefully 2.13m, but 2.16m hadn’t been on his agenda, nor his near-miss at 2.20m.

“Doing 2.10m lifted a weight off my shoulders, so I felt pretty relaxed after that. In jumping 2.10m, I thought I would probably win it and I had been hoping to clear 2.13m,” he said.

“At 2.20m, the first two attempts were a bit off, I think because of the height, but the third was all right.”

At 1.81m tall, Zamel-Paez was the shortest in the elite field but said his recent training had given him confidence. “I was the shortest person out there so it could have been a disadvantage but it didn’t affect me,” she said.

Zamel-Paez trains only three times a week and is coached by his parents, with input from Swedish champion Stefan Strand (PB 2.35m), who the 16-year-old corresponds with through e-mail.

The re-start of the women’s pole vault after a storm the previous evening saw 16-year-old Chinese vaulter Zhou Yang outclass Australia’s three representatives with a clearance of 3.80m. But 14-year-old Western Australian Rachel Birtles managed to equal her best of 3.80m to finish a close second, on countback.

Birtle’s training partners Vicky Parnov (3.75m) and Miranda Tiong (3.70m), all members of the elite squad coached by WA Institute of Sport’s Alex Parnov, finished third and fourth respectively.

All three Australians have qualified for the World Youth Championships in Morocco later this year but only two spots are available. Their coach said the tough conditions, with the overnight break midway through the competition meant it was difficult for them to reach their best.

“I was happy (with their performances). It was tough conditions, but the kids had a nice opportunity here and Rachel equalled her PB and the others weren’t far off,” Parnov said.

While all three girls eagerly nodded when asked if the Beijing Olympics was in their sights, coach Parnov was quick to point out that 16-year-old Tiong is the most likely of the trio to make Beijing as she has two years more maturity than the other two, who are only 14.

Vicky Parnov, Alex’s daughter, says she’s been learning pole vault for almost five years and hopes to follow in the footsteps of some of her father’s other athletes, including 2001 world champion Dmitri Markov and two-time Olympian and former world junior champion Paul Burgess, who just leapt to an Australian all-comer’s record last week of 5.91m.

“It’s great have an Olympian in the squad. It’s great to watch him and see (his progress),” she said. “It shows us how you can progress to the top level.”

This elite squad is reaching new heights with every competition, it seems, and with all three girls currently ranked in the world’s top 10 for their age, they all agreed that it is good that they will be able to continue to push and support each other to reach new levels.

After the inclement weather on day one of competition, it rained personal bests (PBs) in the Women’s Hammer Throw early on day two. Both Natalie Debelijuh and Natalie Prior extended their PBs to secure the silver and bronze medals respectively behind China’s Li Juan, who produced a superb performance herself to win the event with a throw of 51.65m.

Debelijuh, from Norlane in Victoria, produced a stunning penultimate throw to extend her PB from 45.85m to 47.58m. “I’m very happy,” she said. “I wasn’t doing too well in my first few throws but then it all just came together.”

There was no doubt in her mind as to the inspiration for the performance. “It was the atmosphere and all the support we had which made it,” she declared, paying tribute to the generous crowd in attendance.

The story was the same for Prior, from Kearns in NSW, who was similarly disappointed with her start in the event, but recovered to extend her PB from 41.05m to 44.98. “(The PB) was totally unexpected,” she said. “My first few throws were ordinary, so I am really happy with the result.”

More than sharing first names and PB performances, the girls were equally generous in sharing their smiles, and the pride of representing Australia at the AYOF.

“This is by far my greatest achievement ever!” declared Debelijuh.

“Yeah!” agreed Prior. “This is the best thing ever!”

In the Men’s 400m hurdles Sydney’s Mark Watts produced a dominant performance to win the gold in a time of 54.07s, although he wasn’t entirely happy with the way the race panned out.

"I wasn’t happy with the first 200m, "he said. “My stride pattern wasn’t good enough. I was happy with the way I finished though. The last 150m were good.”

Soon after stepping down from the winner’s dais, and with the final strains of the national anthem still hanging in the air, Watts was quick to set out his ambitions. “I’d love to represent Australia again,” he said. “I’d love to represent Australia at the Olympics. We’ve heard from heaps of Olympic athletes over the last few days, and it has been really inspirational. It’s been great.”

Running in the event made famous by Jana Pittman, Lauren Boden refused to be distracted by a false start in the Women’s 400m Hurdles, and set a new personal best of 60.54 in winning the event over Amy Sadler. Sadler also ran a PB of 61.56, and was involved in a tight battle for the minor places, eventually finishing over the top of Kristy Radford 62.02 in third. Boden was delighted to have stuck with her pre-race plan, and was thrilled to have been involved with the AYOF.

“It’s so cool to get an opportunity to represent your country in something like this,” she said. “It’s just so cool! I’m thrilled!”

The Women’s 800m promised to be one of the most competitive races on the program, with five of the world’s top 15 under-18 athletes competing. It didn’t disappoint. With no-one prepared to make the running, it developed into an interesting tactical race. Coming into the home straight for the last time, it looked to be a direct footrace between Zoe Buckman and Katherine Katsanevakis who burst away from the pack. Buckman’s legs proved slightly stronger however, and she powered home to win in a time of 2:08.84, just 0.84s outside the World Youth qualification time. Based in Canberra, Buckman had concentrated on following her coach’s instructions “to sit back and kick if it’s slow” and her precise reading of the race paid off. The win completed an impressive double for Buckman, who had already taken out the Women’s 1500m in impressive style.

Tasmania’s Madelin Poke, took advantage of an ideal 200m wind to clock an equal personal best time of 24.32. She also took the scalps of Commonwealth Youth Games medallist Laura Verlinden and 100m winner Olivia Tauro.

With so many talented athletes present at the AYOF, it is natural that sometimes they have to fight the lure of other sports. Like Nick Toohey, winner of the Men’s 800m (in 1:56.06) and product of Brisbane’s famous rugby nursery Nudgee College. Furthermore, he was recently invited to join the Brisbane Lion’s rookie squad, in which outstanding young athletes are identified and trained to join the Sunshine State’s AFL powerhouse. Toohey says he is happy to put that opportunity on hold for the moment though, and concentrate on his athletics for at least a couple more years, despite being less than content with his performance here.

“I wasn’t very happy with the time or the race,” he said. “It was a great experience though, and it was great to win a medal and to hear the national anthem.”

Likewise, New Zealander Tim Jones, who broke his personal best by almost half a second in winning the men’s 200m sprint, is an accomplished rugby winger and full back and has recently been selected to represent the “Baby Blacks”: New Zealand’s formidable under 17s rugby team. He was delighted with his PB of 22.06s, achieved into slight headwind, in the 200m though, saying he had “been working towards a performance like that all season.” Queenslander Ken Bridger grabbed second in 22.17 and Victorian Joshua Ross third in 22.25.

Small in stature but huge on heart, tiny Jenny Conder stormed to victory in the women’s 3000m bringing squeals of delight from her sister, Mum and Nan who had come to watch her run. Despite standing at barely five foot tall, Condor produced a personal best time of 9:47.22 in beating fellow Aussies Lucy Starrat (9:49.99) and Lara Tamsett (9:51.34). Indeed, her plan before the race was to keep her two rivals in sight and finish over the top of them. Before the race she was “just hoping for a medal! Any medal! No matter what the colour!” Was she happy with the gold then? “Of course!” she beamed.

China show cased two of the finest junior race walkers in the world in the men’s and women’s 5000m Walk. Australia’s Athens Olympics bronze medallist, Jane Saville, was an interested spectator as Li Gabo and Chai Xue completed dominated their events. Adelaide’s Tanya Holliday recorded the leading Australian performance, clocking a tremendous 24:37.60.

Prepared by Melanie Collins, Will Sinclair and David Tarbotton