A Preview of Australia’s Olympic Youth Festival

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, January 8. THE USA-Australia "Duel in the Pool" in Indianapolis this April is still 13 weeks away, but America's and Australia's "swim kids" will stage their own duel in the pool starting tomorrow here at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Center.

The occasion will be the third Australian Olympic Youth Festival, a competition that will see 14 Olympic sports contested over five days using the 2000 Olympic venues.

The high-quality, four-day swimming program will be a major highlight, taking place at the Sydney Aquatic Centre at Homebush, starting tomorrow (Jan. 9).

The USA will be represented by a strong squad of 32 prominent juniors, 18 boys and 14 girls, including such luminaries as Dallas Mustangs' 16-year-old Codie Hansen, national prep leader last season in the girls' 200 yard freestyle; Irvine NOVA's Adam Hewko, a talented freestyler-flyer-IMer who's also an All-America water poloist; Fort Lauderdale's Bryce Clough, 18, a multi gold-medalist at the National Club Swimming Championships meet; Kyle Bubolz, 16, the Waukesha Express star who's been 54.3 for the 100 fly last summer (lcm) and is thinking about a trip to Athens next July; Ialona's Hongzhe Sun, a backstroke specialist who'll be joining Coach Skip Kenney's Stanford Cardinal this fall; and Terrapins' Lauren Rogers, one of the Golden State's most promising and talented swimmers in the backstroke and medley events.

It won't be just America vs. Australia in swimming however. Indeed not, as athletes and potential future Olympians from Japan, Canada, China and New Zealand will also be in action.

(In the Festival's inaugural year, 2001, America's Kristen Caverly won sesveral golds and is now a leading froshwoman on Coach Richard Quick's Stanford women's team.)

(Another top performer that year was Canada's Tobias Oriwol, who swept the backstrokes and is now a freshman at Stanford too.)

Australian Swimming’s National Youth head coach, Leigh Nugent, will lead a team of 32 swimmers and 15 coaches and support staff into Sydney for the event, billed as a "Junior Pan-Pacific Championships."

"The future of Australian and, to some extent, world swimming will be on show in the pool at the Youth Olympics. For the athletes to get the feel for a world-class competition and gain the experience of what a major swimming team is like will be invaluable in their development both as athletes and as people," Nugent said.

"The majority of the competitors that will be racing are the best in the nation for their age and should be names to watch out for as we look towards Beijing in 2008.

"And when you feature the 'cream of the crop' of both the USA and Australian youth swimmers, it augurs well for some great swimming and will bring out the best in both teams.”

Two of Australia’s fastest rising stars who will take to the water in Sydney will be Western Australian 1500 specialist swimmer Travis Nederpelt and Queensland’s latest butterfly star, Jessicah Schipper.

The duo won the male and female Australian Youth Swimmers of the Year at the prestigious Swimmer of the Year Awards in Melbourne in December. Both have had an eye-catching 12 months that has seen them represent Oz at the Oceania Championships in Noumea and the Trans-Tasman Series against New Zealand in both Melbourne and Canberra.

Nederpelt, a stellar member of the City of Perth club, dominated his age group at the Australian Age Championships in Sydney, where he took six golds in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, 1500 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 200 butterfly and 5km open water event.

At the Trans Tasman series, he was named swimmer of the meet before contesting the Australian Short Course Championships in Melbourne — where he took one silver and two bronze medals.

Schipper, the 16-year-old Queenslander from Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, is a training partner of Leisel Jones, Tarnee White and Geoff Huegill.

She had a consistent 2002, highlighted by her victories in the 100 and 200 meter butterflys at the Oceania Championships, where she set a new Australian age group record in the 100.

At the Trans Tasman Series, the Brisbane-based schoolgirl took no fewer than eight victories over the two-meet competition. She wrapped up the year by finaling in the 200 meter fly at the Australian Short Course Championships, and took bronze at the FINA World Cup in Melbourne in December.

Australian Olympic Committee Secretary General Bob Elphinston said: "This will be a very strong meet. In fact the entire Festival showcases the best young male and female athletes from Australia, East Asia and in some sports the world."

— Bill Bell

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