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Festival spurs youth toward 2016

20 January 2013

As the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) finishes up here in Sydney, the junior athletes could not have got a better experience on the road to Rio 2016.

The AYOF kicked off with an extraordinary Opening Ceremony which the athletes and spectators are unlikely to forget.

“My favourite part of the Festival was the Opening Ceremony,” British basketballer Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye said.

“It was really cool walking out and watching the performances.”

Athletes have made their way from all over the world to gain essential experience in their sporting careers.

Designed to be similar to an Olympic Games, the festival has provided a professional yet fun atmosphere to give athletes opportunities to meet other representatives from different countries.

“The village has been amazing- very different to anything I’ve experienced before,” a New Zealand basketballer said while supporting his compatriots at the pool.

“The atmosphere is just incredible,” Australian Diver Matthew Barnard said.

“It’s been great meeting athletes from all different countries.”

Diving Ambassador and Olympic Gold medalist Matthew Mitcham was a Festival Ambassador alongside other Australian Olympians including Jessica Fox and Lauren Mitchell.

An AYOF representative on two occasions, Mitcham was able to provide the young Australians with good advice and mentor them on their journey to Rio 2016.

“The Australian team did really, really well. We won so many medals here… Some of them are a really high caliber,” Mitcham said of the athletes.

For some of the outdoor sports, Sydney delivered all sorts of weather to test their skills under any condition. With melting heats on Friday, many events had to be pushed back, while other athletes battled through.

The weather hiccups were just one of the many tests these juniors had to face in their Youth Olympic experience. Many athletes used the AYOF and its strong competition to test their standing among the best in the world.

With eyes set on Rio 2016, these junior athletes have gained an experience of a lifetime in Sydney this past week. They have gained memories and new friends, shed tears and reached new personal bests.

More importantly, they have been inspired and are even more determined to represent their countries at the ultimate Olympic level.

Watch out Rio, these junior superstars are in preparation to take over.

Olivia Vivian
Olympics.com.au

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