The 2010 Youth Olympic Games opens in Singapore on 14 August and two Australian sailors are preparing for what will be the adventure of a lifetime as they head to the event to take on the World's best youth sailors.
Queensland's Madison Kennedy
and Western Australia's Mark Spearman
have been busy training to get ready for competition in Singapore from 14 - 26 August.
The pair secured their positions in Australia's first ever Youth Olympic Games team at the 2010 OAMPS Insurance Brokers Australian Youth Championship in January and their excitement is rising as the countdown to competition continues.
'I'm really looking forward to the Youth Olympic Games,'
said Spearman. 'All of it from the Opening Ceremony to competing in the sailing, I definitely want to meet Usain Bolt while I am there but don't want to get distracted too much by celebrity spotting.'
Kennedy is also looking forward to hitting the water in Singapore after months of training at home in Queensland.
'I knew it was coming up but I didn't get really excited until I received my uniform in the mail the other day,'
said Kennedy. 'That's when reality and my excitement really kicked in.'
'I'm definitely looking forward to the atmosphere of the whole games, the athlete's village, the overseas athletes, just the whole experience is going to be amazing,'
The Australian pair has had a difficult lead up to the Games as they will be competing in an unfamiliar boat, the Byte CII. There are very few Byte's in Australia and no racing fleets, requiring Kennedy and Spearman to head to Singapore earlier this year to race the boat for the first time and in recent months have finally been able to train on their home waters aboard the Byte.
'It was tough-going at the start as Australia had hardly heard of Byte CII's and I had only seen these boats in photos off the internet,' said Kennedy. 'The boat I received to train in had been sitting, unused, at Woollahra Sailing Club in Sydney for a while, and had quite a lot of maintenance to be done on it. I have been training with proper gear for only about a month now but despite of all the bad luck I have been training hard.'
Spearman has also had to work hard to get time aboard the Byte; 'Because we don't sail the Byte C11 in Australia and I have been unable to train with anyone else, I went to Singapore for a week in the school holidays and did some training there with a Singaporean coach who also sailed on the Byte C11 which helped a lot.'
Kennedy and Spearman will be joined in Singapore by Australian Coach Ben Callard who has been working closely with the sailors for the past few months.
'Madison and Mark's preparations are coming along well,'
said Callard. 'They are both dedicated young sailors and have been putting in a lot of time and hard work in preparation for the Youth Olympic Games. Last school holidays Mark returned to Singapore at cost to his parents for a week's training at the venue with local sailors and Madison participated in the Queensland High Performance Squad training which was then followed by Queensland Youth Week and the Australian Mid Winter Youth Nationals which has put both of them in a good position.'
'Both Sailors have had to firstly find a Byte CII in Australia to sail,'
he said 'This caused many problems with the quality of the Byte's in Australia and new parts had to be sourced from overseas.'
'Madison, Mark and I travelled to Singapore in June for three days of training prior to participating in the Singapore Byte CII National Championships, and this will prove to be one of the most important things in our overall preparation as it allowed for us as a team to get to know each other, learn about the Byte and also learn about the conditions in Singapore. Both sailors have also been working with their respective State High Performance Coaches and programs to try and best prepare.'
For Kennedy and Spearman the opportunity to represent Australia at such a young age and in such a large scale event is the opportunity of a lifetime and important to both of them.
'I feel very proud to be representing Australia,'
said Spearman. 'It's an honour and I hope to represent Australia again later in life.'
Kennedy said; 'I've been sailing since I was six-years old, and to have my 10th year of sailing be the year I represent Australia at the Youth Olympics Games is an amazing feeling and it feels like the last 10 years has really paid off.'
The inaugural Youth Olympic Games is also an important event for Coach Ben Callard who is having his first taste of coaching at this level.
'Personally I see this as a great opportunity to continue my learning and development as a coach,' said Callard. 'I get to work with two of Australia's best young athletes and help them continue their development and achieve success. Then to be involved in anything to do with an Olympic Games has that certain hype about it which will be a great experience and I'm stoked to be a part of it.'
For more information, please visit: www.yachting.org.au or www.olympics.com.au
Visit our Youth Olympic Games microsite at www.sailing.org/yog