Team GB Flag Bearer Georgia Hall proudly led her 120 Team GB teammates from 11 Olympic sports into the Opening Ceremony of the sixth Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) in Sydney today.
The 16-year-old golfer from Bournemouth who is ranked fourth in the world carried the Union Flag into the Opening Ceremony which took place at 18:30 local time (07:00 UK time) at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
In keeping with Olympic tradition, the Opening Ceremony included a parade of the 1,700 participating athletes from 30 countries, the taking of the athletes’ and officials’ oaths, the raising of the Olympic Flag, and the lighting of the Festival Flame as well as musical and performance entertainment from local Australian artists.
Earlier in the day the sporting action began as the men’s hockey squad ensured Team GB got their AYOF campaign off to a winning start with a thrilling 7-3 victory over Malaysia in searing heat at the Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre today.
Goals from captain Andy Bull (Lancashire), Ross Gilham-Jones (Hythe), Cannock Hockey Club’s Arjan Drayton-Chana and an own goal had Great Britain 4-0 ahead at half-time. Although Malaysia put up more of a fight after the interval, another goal from Gilham-Jones as well as further efforts from Sam Hatherley (Bath) and Alan Forsyth (Paisley) saw Team GB run out comfortable winners in 30 degree temperatures.
Team GB player Joe Sharp (Duffield) was happy with the performance: “We are very pleased with the result. We didn’t know what Malaysia were going to be like, but it was a good win and we scored some nice goals. It was a fairly good performance all round except for periods of the second half when we were a bit sloppy. But it was a positive start and hopefully we can get on a winning roll now. We still have a lot more to give as we were poor compared to how well we played against Australia in our three warm up games so I think there is plenty more to come from us individually and as a team.”
There were contrasting fortunes for the women’s hockey team as Team GB were defeated 3-0 by hosts Australia, despite dominating the match for long periods and creating more goal scoring opportunities than their opponents.
Australia opened the scoring with a breakaway goal by Allendorf in the 26th minute and Wil converted a penalty corner in the 33rd minute to leave the half time score at 2-0. Team GB came out fighting in the second half and controlled possession but were unable to break through the solid Australian defence and the hosts wrapped up the victory with a third goal in the 68th minute through Fitzpatrick.
After the game Team GB player Rebecca Van Berkel (Widley) was upbeat: “It’s a long tournament and you can’t win it on the first game and we’re just happy with the performance. We had so many chances, we hit the post and we couldn’t convert our penalty corners. It was like they had a force field around the goal today! The Australians deserve credit for strong defending and clinical finishing; hopefully we can take a leaf out of their book and meet them again in the final on Sunday.”
Teammate Suzannah Petty (Yorkshire) added: “Today was a solid performance, we had loads of opportunities and we’re pretty gutted at the 3-0 scoreline. Hopefully we can win our next two matches and face Australia again in the final. We’ll take positivity and confidence from our performance today leading into the next two games.”
Elsewhere in the Olympic Park Team GB’s badminton players were in fine form as they began with a 4-1 victory over hosts Australia in the team event quarter-final. Tom Wolfenden (Liverpool) and Holly Smith (Sunderland) set the tone with a 21-13, 24-22 victory in the mixed doubles match before Alex Lane (Exmouth) overcame his opponent 21-9, 21-14 in the men’s singles. Chloe Birch (Sheffield) followed suit in the women’s singles with a 21-15, 21-10 win in the women’s singles to clinch the match. Aaron Cheng (Surbiton) and Tom Wolfenden added to the margin of victory with a 21-18, 21-12 defeat of their opponents in the men’s doubles before Chloe Birch and Holly Smith lost the fifth and final match of the team quarter-final 16-21, 15-21 in the women’s doubles.
The result sets Team GB up with a semi-final clash against world number one nation China tomorrow.
Team GB’s Tom Wolfenden (Liverpool) was pleased with the result: “It was really good to get our first victory under our belt and I thought we all played really well. We got off to a really good start and won our first three matches which meant we had already got through and the pressure was off. We did well to win one more game to make it 4-1 and that has prepared us well for China in the semi-final. China will be tough but we have got nothing to lose. All we can do is go out there and try our best and see what happens. They are the best in the world for junior and senior but we have got nothing to lose.”