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Reilly on track to follow Olympic heroes

Date

Fleta Page

Royalla's Bridget Reilly, 16, is going to the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.

Royalla's Bridget Reilly, 16, is going to the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. Photo: Melissa Adams

Bridget Reilly will be Canberra's sole representative in the track and field events when some of the best young athletes from around the world gather in Sydney for the biennial Australian Youth Olympic Festival from January 16-20.

The St Clare's College student is no stranger to international competition, having finished eighth at the triathlon world championships in the 16-19 age group in October.

But the 16-year-old has put a hold on swimming and cycling to take part in her first international athletics meeting.

Having qualified for the festival by finishing second in the 1500 metres at the national championships in December, Reilly tore a stomach muscle which left her unable to finish the 800m.

''I was warming down after the 1500 and I felt a rip through my stomach and I thought it was just a stitch, so I just kept holding it, trying to make it go away, and that really didn't help.

''The next day warming up for the 800, it just ripped through me again and I was like 'oh my god'. I got to 400 to go and I couldn't do it, so that was a sad moment of my athletics career I guess you could say.''

Selectors showed faith in her talent despite the setback, picking her to contest the 800m also. The injury meant four weeks of recovery, but the Calwell Little Athletics product has been back in hard training for two weeks, with her aim to qualify for the 2013 World Youth Championships.

The Olympics are also on her radar, with the likes of Sally Pearson and Jared Tallent having used the youth festival as a stepping stone to the Olympic Games.

''That's the highest level you can go to and I think just the experience itself would be an amazing feat,'' she said. ''I'm aiming for [Rio] - I'll be young still, but it'd be good to make it.''

Canberra will be represented by 26 young athletes at the festival, which will bring together 600 competitors from 30 countries in 17 sports. Rowers make up the bulk of the ACT contingent, with 20 young men and women racing in three events over a two-day regatta.

CANBERRA CONNECTION

Athletics: Bridget Reilly; Badminton: Anthony Joe; Basketball: Tad Dufelmeier; Cycling: Michael Rice; Gymnastics: James Bacueti; Hockey: Kate Gilmore; Judo: Samuel Dobb, Matthew Phung; Rowing: Tessa George, Joshua Fridgant, Nick de Crespigny, Emmanuel Drakakis, Robert Campbell, Stephanie Miniter, Marni Mount, Bonnie Andrews, Caleb Antill, Emily Caudle, Loren Parsons, Luke Letcher, Rebecca Piesse, Alexander Stuchbery, Charlie MacKenzie, David Hoefer, Brittany Staniforth, Briana Wade.

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