The men’s and women’s hockey teams will be the first Team GB athletes in action as the sixth edition of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival gets under way at the Olympic Park in Sydney.
Playing at the venue used during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the Team GB women will face a tough opening match against hosts Australia, while the men will play Malaysia in their first match of the competition.
The hockey competitions involve four teams, playing each other in a round robin group format before the top two nations play for gold, and the third and fourth placed nations play off for the bronze medal. After Malaysia, the Team GB men will face Australia and USA, while the women will face USA and China after their opening match against Australia.
Both squads have participated in a training camp in Sydney since the turn of the year and will be looking to replicate their medal winning performances from the last AYOF in 2009 when the women claimed gold and the men won bronze.
During their preparation the women’s squad has been hit by two withdrawals due to injury as Holly Chipman (Birmingham) and Emily Defroand (Hornchurch) have been replaced in the 16 player squad by Grace Balsdon (Kent) and Stephanie Addison (Edinburgh).
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s encounter, men’s hockey captain Andy Bull (Bury, Lancashire), who has 12 senior international caps and a Champions Trophy silver medal to his name said: “This competition provides us with a valuable opportunity to play against teams from outside of Europe that we do not have much knowledge of. We have improved in each of our three warm-up matches against Australia and we are looking forward to starting the competition against Malaysia.”
Team GB’s six badminton players will also be in action on day one as the team event quarter-finals in the world’s fastest racquet sport get under way. The three male and three female players will participate in the team event which involves five matches - men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.
Standing in Team GB’s way are hosts Australia ‘A’ in the quarter finals, with world number one China the likely opponent in the semi-final on Thursday. The individual event begins on Saturday.
The men’s badminton squad includes Alex Lane (Exmouth) and Tom Wolfenden (Liverpool) who won European Junior gold and Youth Commonwealth Games silver medals respectively in 2011.
Looking ahead to the team competition Team GB Badminton Team Leader Dave Lindley said: “We’ve had two good training sessions in the competition venue today so we are in good shape. The Australian’s will be a tough test on their home turf, but we’re positive in our approach to the match. The possibility of facing the Chinese in the semi-final is a big incentive as they are the top nation in the world and our ambition here at the AYOF is to gain experience of challenging them.”
Team GB in Action: Wednesday 16 January
10:00 - 13:00 Team Event Round 1
Sports Hall - West, Sydney Olympic Park
09:00 - 10:30 AUS v GBR - Women
09:00 - 10.30 MAS v GBR – Men
Hockey Centre, Sydney Olympic Park
(Times stated are local Sydney times. Sydney is +11 hours ahead of UK time)