The 2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) kicked off the year with one almighty bang as the quest to unveil the next Australian Olympic superstars heated up when the world’s finest young athletes converged on Sydney.
In what was the sixth edition of the Festival, 1700 athletes from 30 countries competed in 17 sports at many of the Olympic venues around Sydney as the legacy of the 2000 Games continues to live on.
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Just as it did for the likes of Sally Pearson, Matt Mitcham and Anna Meares, the event gave many of the athletes their first opportunity to experience just what it feels like to compete at a multi-sport event.
From marching at an Opening Ceremony in front of a packed crowd, to living in an Olympic-style Village to being educated and tested for banned substances, the Festival introduced athletes to the pressures and unique experiences of competing on the world stage.
When the athletes got down to what they do best, spectators were left in awe at the level of competition on display.
Four days in the pool saw barely an AYOF swimming record left standing, while the Athletics Centre also saw the record books re-written with some blistering performances.
Australian records fell at the weightlifting and track cycling while the packed out Hockey Centre saw two gold medal classics as the Aussies defeated the Chinese by a single goal in the women’s event before the men knocked off old foes Great Britain in extra time.
With an eye on the Rio 2016 Games, the 2013 AYOF saw some exciting additions to the program.
Many young golfers impressed onlookers at Sydney’s Twin Creeks Golf Course as the sport builds towards returning to the Olympic program in Rio after a 112 year absence, while rugby sevens had its first Olympic hit-out in the lead up to its hotly anticipated Olympic debut in Brazil.
The event also featured a host of exciting innovations with 3 on 3 basketball, head-to-head kayak sprint contests, elimination diving and mixed-team triathlon relays all taking a new angle to many of the tried and tested Olympic sports.
After five days of intense competition the curtain was drawn on what was undoubtedly the most successful Festival to date.
The athletes took their first steps on what will be a long and challenging road to the 2016 Games in Rio. As each of them aims to embrace the Olympic motto Citus, Altius, Fortius - Faster, Higher, Stronger. We can now sit back in anticipation for the next generation of sporting stars to take the world by storm.