The Australian Under 20 team of 57 athletes arrived in Townsville on Wednesday, entering the final preparation phase for the IAAF World Under 20 Championships which will be held in Tampere, Finland from 10 to 15 July.
Australia’s best Under 20 athletes have the opportunity to compete at the Athletics North Queensland Student Games, whilst engaging in a variety of team-building activities provided by Athletics Australia’s Junior High Performance department.
National Junior High Performance Manager Sara Heasly described the camp as a fantastic opportunity for athletes to get to know fellow team members, whilst making the most of the occasion to learn from Australian team staff about the processes involved with travelling overseas for competition.
“Our team goal is to encourage the athletes to focus on the education and performance opportunities available, and really get the most out of the international competitive experience, as it can act as a bridging opportunity to senior teams”.
The month-long trip will involve competitions at the Mannheim Junior Gala, one of Europe’s most prestigious Under-20 events, followed by event-group specific carnivals in Finland prior to the World Under-20 Championship.
Travelling overseas as a junior presents a wide range of new stimuli, and the athletes ability to manage these well is a major factor that contributes to success. Athletics Australia High Performance and team staff have spent the week in Townsville providing athletes with exercises to hone their problem solving skills, encouraging athletes to be responsible for their preparation, whilst keeping an eye out for teammates, knowing throughout the trip that senior management are always nearby to assist or advise.
“We encourage the athletes to keep an open mind when competing at new venues, as event group coaches run each athlete through modifiable aspects of their warm-up, should a venue differ from their usual home venue preparation” explained Heasly.
Athletics North Queensland have generously opened their facilities to the World Under-20 team, a resource 2017 Youth Commonwealth representative Carley Thomas is thoroughly enjoying. Thomas ran 2:05.04 in 2017 to take home gold in the Bahamas, and the 2:03.66 UTS Norths athlete will travel to Tampere ranked inside the top ten Under-20 800m runners in the world.
Thomas took a moment to explain the team camp atmosphere as Tampere draws nearer,
“I’m excited to compete in the warmer weather, it’s a trip I’ve looked forward to for a while now, and it provides a welcome reality check. I hadn’t realised just how big the team was, and how many new faces there are to meet! It’s been great to build up a feeling of team spirit, I learnt plenty in the Bahamas in 2017, and I’m expecting this trip to be a similarly positive experience”.
More than 50 athletes will compete this weekend, some in multiple events, as many athletes return to a competitive phase in their training preparation.
Sean Whipp for Athletics Australia
Image: Abbey Caldwell