As we reflect on the outstanding performance of our Commonwealth Games team, one of the highlights is the success of the athletes who have come through the Athletics Australia Junior High Performance Program. Athletes from our junior program made up 70 of our 107-strong team, and won 20 of the 36 medals awarded to the athletics team.
“I was delighted to see the number of athletes who have come through the Junior program perform so well at the Commonwealth Games highlighting the influence the program has had on both the athletes and personal coaches who have played such an integral role in the performances” said Craig Hilliard, Athletics Australia Head Coach.
Sara Heasly, the National Junior High Performance Manager says “Our athletes, their families and their personal coaches work incredibly hard to achieve success in this sport. They make choices every day to be an elite athlete or to develop an elite athlete. The Junior program has been able to build on this work with educational programs, learning from current and former Australian athletes and coaches and work with our sports science and sports medicine experts from the AIS and SIS/SAS networks. The National Junior Coaches have continued to assist the personal coaches in their work with their athletes. The program has evolved over many years and will continue to do so in the future.”
Ben Raysmith, Senior Sports Physiotherapist at the AIS has seen a positive change in this latest generation of juniors, and their coaches and teams. “It is evident that the athletes coming through from the Junior programme over the past five years or so have better established behaviours and habits with respect to physical preparation conditioning and established recovery strategies. There is minimal value in generic behaviours in this space, so athletes need to have ‘purpose’ to these areas that are specific to themselves. It is evident that more and more of the junior group are progressing to senior ranks with an improved understanding of the ‘purpose’ behind their behaviours in this space.”
One of the young athletes who came through the junior program, and who thrived on the opportunity of throwing in front of a home crowd was Alexandra Hulley. Alex is a 20-year-old university student from Sydney and made her senior debut on the Gold Coast throwing 68.20m and winning a silver medal, behind New Zealand’s Julia Ratcliffe who won gold with a throw of 69.94m. Hulley’s teammate Lara Nielsen bagged the bronze medal with 65.03m.
On returning home a Commonwealth Games silver medalist…
“I’m just about to get back into training and the time off has been great! I’ve been able to celebrate with my friends and family back home and it was great to see everyone again. I’m still on a high from Comm Games but am ready to start training again!”
On her expectations about throwing at CG18. . .
I was confident going into the competition and knew that if I threw my best or better, that I could potentially come away with a medal. However, I did not expect a silver medal!
On her team and the support she has…
Definitely my coaches, Karyne Di Marco and Breanne Clement. All the NSWIS staff incl. biomechanists, dietician, psychologist, physio’s, massage, doctors, personal excellence, managers and all other staff have played a major role in my success in the last few years. The AA staff have also contributed to my success, especially my Athlete Performance Advisor Sara Heasly, along with my family and friends are so supportive as well.
On coming through as a junior...
Having the junior program is a great opportunity for junior athletes to learn the best way to transition into being a senior athlete. Having only just come out of the junior program a couple of years ago, I am lucky to have had the support from the program organiser’s and coaches since I was 15. I think learning about ASADA, recovery options, training methods/periods, programming, sports psychology and nutrition at an age where you are just starting to develop in the sport is important, and I received all of that through the junior program.
On other younger athletes in the team...
Kurtis Marschall is doing absolutely great things at the moment. He has come from the same path as I have and is so successful as a senior athlete right now. Dani Stevens of course, winning the world championships at 21 years old and is still competitive internationally almost 10 years later. She is a big inspiration.
I think the new generation of athletes coming through at the moment is great. This showed through the outstanding results that the junior athletes achieved at Comm Games this year. The future of athletics in the next 10 years and beyond will be amazing in my opinion.
On her next goals...
I’m travelling to Taiwan in 3 weeks to compete in the Taiwan Athletics Open on the 25th May. After that, my focus will be on qualifying for the IAAF world championships in Doha, 2019. My coach and I will strive to achieve this by travelling through Europe in June/July this year.
In consultation with AIS Pathways, State Performance Coordinators, National Junior Coaches, National Coaching leads, State Target Talent Coaches, personal coaches and athletes, Athletics Australia has recently devised a new pathway for junior and emerging athletes. The Junior Program provides a clear pathway for success, helping to build the foundations for future athletics teams looking towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and beyond.
Image: Alexandra Hulley. Getty Images.