Australian Golden Girls Jodie Henry and Ariarne Titmus Paved The Way From Commonwealth Youth Games To Olympic Glory 

Samuel Higgs fly
HIGGS MIGHT FLY: Warringah Aquatic's Samuel Higgs shows the style that won him the 200 and 400IM double at the Australian Age, earning him a place on the Australian Commonwealth Youth Games team. Photo Courtesy Swimming Australia.

Australian Golden Girls Jodie Henry and Ariarne Titmus Paved The Way From Commonwealth Youth Games To Olympic Glory 

First it was Jodie Henry in 2000 before fellow future Olympic gold medallist Ariarne Titmus followed suit in 2015 and now 10 more young Australian swimmers will get the chance to showcase their talents when Trinbago hosts the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games in August.

Commonwealth Games Australia has today announced its swim team to contest the seventh Commonwealth Youth Games be held in Trinidad and Tobago from August 4 to 11, with swimming events taking place at the National Aquatic Centre in Couda, Trinidad.

It was Henry who won five gold medals – including the 100m freestyle at the inaugural Youth Games in Edinburgh in 2000 – four years before she won Olympic gold in Athens and Titmus who won the 400m freestyle out of Tasmania at the 2015 Youth Games in Samoa – six years before her Tokyo Olympic triumphs over 200 and 400m six years later.

The Australian team, named after the Australia Age Championships in April, consists of five male and five female swimmers aged between 15 and 18, with five from Queensland, two of WA and one each from Victoria, NSW and SA.

The 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games Australian Swimming Team is:

Hannah Allen, 17 (Iona, QLD)
Zoe Ammundsen, 15 (Iona, QLD)
Jye Bennion, 18 (St Peters Western, QLD)
Mikayla Bird, 16 (Bond, QLD)
Braden Fyneman, 16 (UWA-West Coast, WA)
Samuel Higgs, 16 (Warringah Aquatic, NSW)
Tommy Lane, 17 (Haileybury Aquatic, VIC)
Clancy Luscombe, 17 (Marion, SA)
Inez Miller, 16 (St Hilda’s, WA) and;
Poppy Stephen, 17 (Nudgee, QLD)

The team will again be led by Olympic gold medal coach, Head Coach Tracey Menzies-Stegbauer who was also head coach at the 2017 Games in the Bahamas and including a host of Australian Age multi-medallists like Mikayla Bird and Samuel Higgs.

Bird, under head coach Chris Mooney in the Bond program, was one of the real stars of the Age Championships – winning triple gold in the 100m butterfly (59.90), 200m butterfly (2:12.76) and 200m freestyle (2:02.55) as well as silver in the 50m butterfly (27.59).

While Higgs won four medals including gold in the 200 and 400IM in 2:05.39 and 4:25.41 respectively – adding silver in the 200m butterfly (2:04.04) and bronze in the 800m freestyle (8:23.05).

Higgs is coached at Warringah Aquatic, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches by head coach Cameron Gledhill,who is also one of two assistant coaches on the team along with former Australian Swim Team member Kelly Stubbins, coach at Melbourne (VIC) Haileybury College.

Stubbins put distance boy Tommy Lane on the team, who won gold at the Australian Age in the 16-18 years 1500m freestyle in 15:49.53.

Adelaide’s all-rounder Clancy Luscombe, a triple medallist in the 200 backstroke (silver, 2:03.37), 200m butterfly (bronze, 2:05.45) and 400IM (bronze, 4:29.03), thrilled with selection on his first Australian team, saying he was excited to be heading to the Commonwealth Youth Games.

“To have a chance to represent my Country, Swimming Australia, Swimming South Australia, and my teammates is so exciting,” said  Luscombe, coached by Olympic gold medal coach Peter Bishop at Marion, SA.

“I look forward to swimming against some of the world’s best athletes and the opportunities this creates. Bring on Trinidad and Tobago.”

Australia’s premier swimming State, Queensland, have five on the team, continuing the Maroons dominant influence on Australian teams, and following the selection of 18 of the  30-strong Australian Junior Dolphins team named for the World Youth Championships in Israel in September.

Between them the five Queenslanders won 14 medals at the Australian Age Championships in April.

Mikayla Bird will be joined by Iona Swim Club pair, 17-year-old Hannah Allen and 15-year-old Zoe Ammundsen, alongside Jye Bennion, 18 (St Peters Western, QLD), and Poppy Stephen, 17 (Nudgee, QLD), forming half of the Australian team.

The Iona duo, under Head Coach Zane King, shared six of those 14 medals on the Gold Coast with Ammundsen winning the 15-years 100 (1:02.04) and 200m backstroke (2:14.35) double as well as taking silver and bronze in the 50m backstroke (28.50) and 100m freestyle (56.50) respectively.

Allen chiming in with silver in the 1500m freestyle (16:57.71) and bronze in the 400m freestyle min 4:16.29.

Bennion, under SPW’s National Age coach Richard Sleight was a dual bronze medallist in the 16-18 years 800m (8:15.32) and 1500m freestyle (16:00.88) respectively while Stephen under head coach Shaun Crow earned her place on the team winning silver in the 200m butterfly (2;13.18) and bronze in the 50m backstroke (29.61).

Swimming Australia’s General Manager – Performance Pathways, Gary Barclay, said the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games would not only provide the Australian team with a valuable opportunity to swim against international opposition, but also deliver the athletes the unique experience of taking part in a significant multi-sport competition.

“The Commonwealth Youth Games is an exceptional way for our young athletes to gain crucial experience on the international stage,” Barclay said.

“The meet provides these athletes with an opportunity to test themselves against some of the best young athletes across the world, and it is great recognition of how they have performed in the pool to date.”

Bringing a diverse perspective of the twin island country in the West Indies to the nations of the Commonwealth, as well as showcasing a festival of the country’s activities.

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