RT Journal by Clara Smith: World Youth Champs Cali

I gathered with twenty talented athletes at the airport – a familiar scene…– to commence this journey representing Australia at the World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia.

I was overwhelmed and fulfilled to be dressed in the yellow and green uniform that could be identified from a mile away. No doubt a feeling I will remember for a long time…

First stop: Miami.
After a lengthy trip, we were over the moon to stay at the University of Miami for five days. The aim was to overcome jet-lag and become accustomed to the heat and continue to train with the right mind set.

Each morning began with the ritual ‘wee’s and weigh’s’, a test for hydration and general health. This first stop was the best recipe for team bonding and fun.

We shared the common objective of competing at our best whilst enjoying the experience.

Race time: Colombia.
We arrived in Cali, Colombia facing a bit of a cultural shock. Suddenly it was unsafe to consume water from taps and to walk around freely. For this reason the next five days was spent mostly within the Spiwak Hotel. We arrived the day before the World Youth Championships began and we travelled to the warm up track to get our legs back into gear. I soaked up the experience; after my training session I was interviewed twice for the Colombian Sports Channel.

It was enjoyable and challenging to instantly and formally respond to their google translated questions…

The Championships begun with a buzz. A highlight was to watch my team mates perform with such talent. My five-kilometres race-walk began at a really slow pace, with the lead pack, and increased tremendously towards the end. This took a different course to what I’m used to in Australia. I managed to pull through with 7th place, while my friend and competitor Jemima Montag came 11th… a great performance in this new environment of outstanding performers. Along with this came the hundreds of Colombians who stood in lines waiting to have pictures with all the athletes. I recall taking a good half-an-hour to get from one side of the stadium to the other due to the enthusiastic locals.

Australia as a whole came home with four medals; silver in long jump (Darcy Roper), silver in pole vault (Phillipa Hajdasz), bronze in hammer (Ned Weatherly) and bronze in discus (Samantha Peace). It was phenomenal to see my team mates attain their goals.

With thanks to the Athletics Australia Staff for their support.Photo: Jemima (11th) and I (7th) at the end of the 5km Race-walk. Out of a field of 35 athletes on the start line.

Celebration time: Los Angeles.
To our delight, the staff team surprised us with a night in a great hotel and a day in Disney land. This was a chance for the team to put their legs up, relax and enjoy the last moments of the trip. Even with our deprivation of sleep, we all enjoyed the rides. We also stopped by ‘In and out burger’ a classic fast food store loved by all Americas (keeping a balanced diet with the sometimes foods). We were not surprised by the gigantic food portions…
This experience on the world stage was a gain of knowledge in race strategies. It has motivated me to further enhance my fitness leading into next year, where I hope to participate and medal at the World Race Walking Cup and the World Junior Championships, both in Russia.

Ultimately, regardless of results, my aim is to finish next year feeling that I have done everything possible to race at my best potential.

When we, as athletes, do not obtain the results we anticipate at the international level, we tend to think of it as failure, but I realised even more so in such context, that success goes through learning stages, not a straight road. You can either learn from these moments or refuse to overcome them and remain at the same level.

My message to all the athletes who aspire to represent their country is: “You possess within you the greatness to achieve your goals and excel, you just have to tune in and persevere.”

The harder the battle the sweeter the victory.

See you next year!