Nina Kennedy (WA) will be the youngest athlete to don the green and gold at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing (CHN), but don’t let age fool you.
This rising star of the pole vault has previously reaped the benefits of international experience at youth and junior world championships and she has spent the past six weeks competing in Europe under the guidance of her renowned coach Alex Parnov (WA).
Beyond that, the 18-year-old Australian Flame debutant will start with a new personal best of 4.59m from the Jandakot City Track Classic in her home town of Perth (WA) earlier this year. The performance, at the time, was the biggest ever by leap outdoors by a junior athlete anywhere in the world.
“I am so, so excited. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time now, I set the goal (of being on this team) a long time ago and the event is almost here. It’s a week away, it’s amazing,” Kennedy said.
“I never dreamt of the year that I have had. To jump 4.50m was awesome, but to get to 4.59m was totally unexpected. I was totally in the moment in that competition and I look back thinking ‘wow, what an amazing night.’ I’ll always treasure that.”
“I went to youth, then world juniors and now I’m on the senior team. I’ve learnt so much already and can only learn more here. This is the start of something for me and I can’t wait to take it all in and improve even more.”
Two-time Commonwealth champion Alana Boyd (Qld) will start alongside Kennedy in the women’s pole vault.
A co-captain of the Australian Flame, Boyd is the Australian pole vault record holder with a career best mark of 4.76m. She has been the national champion four times and her international resume includes starts at three instalments of the IAAF World Championships and a further two Olympic Games.
The Australian Flame jumps contingent also includes Fabrice Lapierre (NSW), Brooke Stratton (Vic, long jump), Eleanor Patterson (Vic, high jump), Brandon Starc (NSW, high jump) and Joel Baden (Vic, high jump).
A gold medallist at the IAAF World Indoor Championships and Commonwealth Games, Lapierre has returned to impressive form since moving his training environment to Phoenix (USA), where he is coached by Dan Pfaff. Stratton will compete at an open age major international championship for the first time, after being forced to withdraw from the 2014 Commonwealth Games with injury. She set a new personal best of 6.73m during the Australian Athletics Tour to ensure her selection
The Commonwealth champion for the women’s high jump, Patterson will enjoy her maiden start at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. The winner of the gold medal at the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships, the Leongatha (Vic) based charge soared to a massive 1.96m at the Australian All-School Championships that same year before Glasgow 2014 victory last season.
Patterson at her best is within striking distance of the longstanding national record of 1.98m, with a performance of this nature set to see her challenge for a medal.
Starc competed alongside the Australian Flame for the first time at the IAAF World Championships two years ago, with Beijing 2015 providing the Youth Olympic Games medallist and Commonwealth Games finalist with an opportunity to improve upon his season best leap of 2.30m at the Sydney Track Classic. Baden soared to 2.29m late in 2014 to come into contention for Australian Flame selection and has recovered well from an injury that forced his withdrawal from much of the Australian athletics season.
The Australian Flame team for the IAAF World Championships is 45-strong, boasting 42 individual athletes and the women’s 4x400m relay. Three athletes will also compete in exhibition masters events to bring the overall squad size to 48.
The first wave of athletes will arrive in the Chines capital today, while the remainder of the team will continue their preparation for Beijing 2015 at a team camp in Wakayama (JPN).
At the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow (RUS), Australia won three medals – two silver (Sally Pearson, Kim Mickle) and one bronze (Jared Tallent) – and scored 27 points to place 16th of 203 competing nations.