With just a little over two months before the action begins, the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council (NICGC) has announced the team which will be competing in the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau, Bahamas between 18th and 23rd of July.
The Commonwealth Youth Games will bring together 1000 young athletes for this festival of elite sport. The Youth Games are a vital stepping stone for young athletes with previous competitors including; Olympic medallists Jessica Ennis-Hill, Beth Tweddle, Chad le Clos, Geraint Thomas and Michael Conlan. Carl Frampton represented Northern Ireland at the Bendigo Youth Games in 2004 before going on to become a World Champion.
Northern Ireland will be represented by 18 athletes across 5 sports: Aquatics, Athletics, Boxing, Cycling and Judo. Athletes have been selected based upon nominations from their respective sport’s governing body and are aged between 15 and 18.
The swim squad consists of Rachel Bethel (Lisburn), Jack McMillan (Bangor), Rebecca Reid (Ards) and Shannon Russell (Lurgan). Due to a change in the games scheduling following Samoa 2015, Rachel Bethel will be competing in her second Commonwealth Youth Games. Swimming has regularly returned from Youth Games with medals. This group will be targeting the podium against the might of Australia, England, Scotland and South Africa.
Athletics sees a mix of track and field competitors with Sommer Lecky (Finn Valley) looking to build upon her early season form which saw her jump 1.82m outdoors at the weekend. Aaron Sexton (North Down) will relish the stiff competition in the 100m and 200m, while Anna McCauley (City of Lisburn) will look to fly over the 100m hurdles. One lap specialist Davicia Patterson (Beechmount) completes the group and will be a contender in the 400m.
Six boxers will be seeking to maintain the sport’s terrific recent record at Commonwealth competitions as Kian Bittles (Holy Trinity), Dominic Bradley (Errigal), Anthony Johnston (Gleann), Aaron McKenna (Old School), John Moran (Illies) and Kane Tucker (Holy Trinity) take to the ring. Despite the high standards and unpredictability of competition all five NI boxers returned with medals from the Samoan Youth Games in 2015, including Aaron’s older brother Stephen.
Cycling will include a road race and time trial in which Northern Ireland will be represented in both disciplines by Harvey Barnes (East Tyrone) and Adam Ward (Powerhouse Sport). Conditions and acclimatisation will be tough on the Bahamian roads.
Judo is another sport which often medals at Commonwealth level and both Matthew Elliott (Murakwai) and Kirstie Strouts McCallion (St. Columb’s Park) will be seeking to replicate the senior successes of the likes of Lisa Bradley and Lisa Kearney.
Congratulating selected participants NICGC Chairman, Robert McVeigh, said:
‘It’s a great honour for these young athletes to represent Northern Ireland at such a prestigious global event. Our planning has been in progress for quite some time and, over the next couple of months, we will continue to make sure that all the athletes and coaches are suitably prepared so that they can perform to the best of their ability. NICGC acknowledges the ongoing support given to athletes by their respective governing bodies and SportNI. We wish them every success.’
The athletes will be accompanied by a support team of twelve, including coaching, medical and management staff.