Kookaburras sing AYOF praises
1 November 2012
HOCKEY: Before winning bronze medals at the London Olympics, some of the Australian Kookaburras had tasted gold on the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) stage.
Dominant 2012 Olympic players Matthew Butturini, Matt Gohdes, Simon Orchard and Kieran Govers came through the multi-sport AYOF in 2007 and 2009.
“The AYOF 2007 and 2009 were the best memories I have of my Australian Junior career,” Govers said of the festival which will host a sixth edition in Sydney in January 2013.
“It was a great experience as it was my first big international tournament.”
The AYOF is designed to prepare athletes for the Olympics and give them an international experience to keep them engaged in their sport. It is a legacy from the Sydney Olympic Games organised and funded by the Australian Olympic Committee for 13-19 year olds.
“The AYOF is a smaller version of the Olympics in my thoughts. It is run very similar to how London was - there was a village and common areas so being able to talk with other athletes from different countries and sports was cool and sharing the common rooms and dining hall was great as well,” Govers said.
“It was good to experience these things when I was young to be able to prepare myself for when I actually walked into the Olympics.”
On his Olympic debut this year Govers met some familiar counterparts in the bronze medal playoff- the British.
“There are a few Brits that went to the AYOF that I'm still playing against now,” Govers said.
At the London 2012 Olympics and at the 2007 AYOF, Australia met Great Britain to contest the medals. In 2012 the teams played for bronze and in 2007 gold was on the line - on both occasions the Aussies came out on top.
“It was a tough AYOF match and very hot - if I can recall about 35 degrees. We had similar hot conditions during our bronze medal match in London but the tables had turned as we had 16,000 people going for the poms and not us!”
The 2013 AYOF will welcome 1700 athletes from 30 nations contesting 17 sports. The newest sports on the Olympic program rugby sevens and golf will be included alongside modified team sports such as 3v3 basketball and team triathlon- a title which London Olympian Emma Jackson won in 2009.
Other AYOF champions of the past include Olympic gold medallists Matthew Mitcham, Anna Meares, Sally Pearson, Cate Campbell and Emma Snowsill, proving the festival’s mantra rings true: “See tomorrow’s Olympians today.”