Image: Sprinters Kristie Edwards, Mia Gross & Nana Owusu-Afiyie (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)
The journey to the international athletics stage for over 50 Australian teenagers became real today as the first wave of team members departed for the IAAF World U20 Championships to be held in Tampere, Finland next month.
In three weeks, they will go into battle against 150 countries, when they step onto the Tampere track. Along with soccer, athletics is the world’s most global sport. With competitors from Africa, North and South America, Central America and the Caribbeens, Asia, the Pacific Islands and Europe, the Championships are set to showcase incredible depth across all events and disciplines.
Today’s departing party included 31 athletes who will continue their preparation this weekend competing at the Bauhaus Junior Gala in Mannheim, Germany. Two years ago, Kurtis Marschall made a career breakthrough at this meet, improving his pole vault personal best from 5.55m to 5.70m – which represented the highest vault in the world by a junior for three years. The Aussies will then travel to the city of Pajulahti, their Finnish training base. Next Tuesday the second wave of 23 Australian athletes, will travel to Finland and join up with the other members of the team in Pajulahti.
Over the weekend of June 30 and July 1, there will be an opportunity for some further competition at various locations in Finland. Then on Thursday July 5, they take the two-hour bus trip to Tampere. The six-day competition starts on Tuesday July 10.
The rather daunting step onto the world stage for some of the athletes will be lessened by a large group who have already tasted international competition. The team includes athletes who have completed at the world championships, Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Youth Games, World U20 Championships and World Race Walking Teams Championships. In addition, the senior management and coaches have a wealth of experience, ranging from Team Leader Sara Heasly, to head coach Paul Pearce and the team coaches. Pearce and sprints/jumps coach Andrew Murphy have even competed at a World Juniors (U20) Championships themselves.
Australia is a junior powerhouse in athletics, regularly finishing in the top 10 with a few medals, but the reality is the competition is tough, as our team takes on some of the very best young athletes in the world.
The World U20/Junior Championships have historically been one of the key pathways for athletes to the top. Medallists have included Dani Stevens, Sally Pearson, Jana Pittman, Tamsyn Lewis, Steve Solomon, Damien Birkinhead, Nick Hough, Cedric Dubler and Fabrice Lapierre.
Athletics Australia’s website and social platforms will closely follow the progress of the athletes in the leadup and during the championships.
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia
Find out more
IAAF World Under 20 Championships | Timetable
Pajulahti Olympic Sports Centre