The second Commonwealth Youth Games, took place at a windy La Trobe University complex in Bendigo, Australia on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 December, and produced the expected dominance by the host nation and England.
The event, first staged four years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland, is for under-19 athletes, a number of whom figured prominently in last July’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy.
DAY ONE – Thursday 2 December
One such athlete was Australia’s Sally McLellan, who won a bronze medal in the 100m and finished fourth in the 100m hurdles at the World Juniors. McLellan was expected to breeze to a comfortable 100m success on Thursday having clocked 11.40 early this year but surprisingly had to settle for a bronze medal behind England’s Joscelynn Hopeson, who won in 12.18 running into a stiff 3.1m/s headwind. McLellan crossed the line in 12.26, two hundredths of a second behind compatriot Michelle Cutmore.
Hammer-thrower Simon Wardhaugh finished fifth in the World Juniors, but, he too, was also surprisingly overcome by a talented English athlete. Alex Smith, son of 1986 Commonwealth champion Dave, took the competition with a personal best of 70.45m in round two. Wardhaugh was consistent, three times breaching the 70m barrier but his best was 39 centimetres short of the Englishman.
One athlete who missed out on competing at the World Juniors was 18-year-old Tristan Thomas. Injury cost the Tasmanian the chance to run in the 400m Hurdles in Grosseto, his favoured event, but in an effort to salvage something from the season the flame-haired 18-year-old refocused his efforts on the 400m flat.
Thomas breezed through the preliminaries with the fifth fastest qualification mark of 51.13 but produced a far more impressive piece of sprinting in the final destroying the opposition to win the gold medal in a personal best of 47.06, more than a second clear of South African Ruaan Grobler.
Thomas said of his victory: “It was awesome, definitely the highlight of my career. My legs gave way toward the end. I suppose I’ve learned how to compete in the 400m by going out more aggressively at the beginning.”
Australia also took the men’s 100m in 10.76 with Brandan Galic winning by five-hundredths from England’s Harry Aikines-Aryeetey into a 2.5m/s headwind.
India’s Roy Hari Shankar was an impressive winner of the men’s High Jump with a leap of 2.13m – narrowly failing in his three attempts at 2.18m.
Australia dominated the women’s field events winning the Pole Vault, Triple Jump, Discus Throw and Shot Put while England claimed a men’s and a women’s 4x100m Relay double.
DAY TWO – Friday 3 December
IAAF World Youth champion Ronnie Buckley produced a top-class throw of 56.45m to win the Discus Throw competition as the host nation enjoyed an outstanding second and final day of competition at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo, Australia.
Buckley was one of the big names on show at the La Trobe University Complex and he was never headed in a competition he comfortably won.
Australia’s World Junior bronze medallist Annabel Thomson was another top teenage talent on view and she took Javelin gold with a best of 51.99m to finish ahead of England’s Joanna Blair. Thomson was a long way short of the 56.01m she threw at the World Juniors in July but still had far too much in hand for the opposition.
Australia’s Sally McLellan has been one of the world’s most exciting junior talents since she struck gold in the 100m Hurdles at the 2003 IAAF World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada. The Queenslander also won the 100m bronze medal in July’s IAAF World Junior Championships, so it was a big surprise she had to settle for bronze over that distance on the opening day of competition in Bendigo. However, she bounced back to comfortably win the 100m hurdles in 14.11, running into a 2.5m/s headwind.
England also celebrated a day of success by bagging four gold medals. World Junior 200m finalist Julian Thomas led home an England one-two in the 200m stopping the clock in a swift 21.06, running into a 1.9m/s headwind.
England’s Danielle Christmas, who has recently benefited from a month in training camp with Kelly Holmes, clearly heeded the much sought after advice of the double Olympic champion. Christmas held on from Australia’s fast-finishing Katherine Katsanevakis to win by three-hundredths of a second in 2:10.38.
South Africa also enjoyed a sizeable proportion of the medals on offer but countries such as Singapore and the Channel Island of Jersey all mounted the medal podium, in what was generally viewed as a successful second version of the multi-sport event.
Organising committee member Peter Norman, the 1968 Olympic 200m silver medallist and Australian 200m record-holder, widely praised the Games adding: “An event such as this serves as a good apprenticeship for the Commonwealths and the Olympics and it might just spur them to bigger and better things in the future. The standard has been surprisingly high.”
The third Commonwealth Youth Games will be staged in New Delhi, India in 2008.