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Olympic festival calls teen rower

RACHEL STURGES
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2013
Lucy Jonas
AUSSIE BOUND: Lucy Jonas is competing in New Zealand’s rowing squad at the biennial Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney this week.

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It was a bittersweet moment for Mt Eden teenager Lucy Jonas when she heard she was on the rowing squad to compete at the biennial Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney this week.

Lucy did not expect to be called up but another rower was injured in training.

The five-day multisport festival hosted by the Australian Olympic Committee began on Wednesday. It's intended to give young elite athletes an Olympic-like experience.

More than 1700 athletes from 30 countries will be competing in 17 sports over five days.

Mum Tracey Baird says her daughter "was excited and nervous and shocked".

"But she had also been training with that girl for a week and she had a lot of sympathy for her."

The New Zealand team of 166 athletes is the third largest after Australia and China and as well as rowing will be competing in sports including athletics, triathlon, canoe/kayak sprint and slalom, and swimming.

The Epsom Girls Grammar School year 13 student started rowing for the school in year 9 and recently won a gold medal representing Auckland in Queensland.

Ms Baird says the family is "really proud" of their daughter.

"She's very young to be in that situation and it's going to be a fantastic experience, it's all a bit daunting."

Lucy is staying in an athletes village, attending the opening ceremony and competing on the Olympic rowing course.

"Probably as close a case to the actual Olympics as she can get," Ms Baird says.

New Zealand Rowing high performance manager Judith Hamilton is in charge of the young rowing squad in Sydney. She says the increasing popularity of rowing at grassroots level has meant that they have more athletes to select from.

"It raises the standard. I guess that's a really good place to be, they're coming in at a slightly higher level than they otherwise would have," she says.

She says it was fantastic that Lucy was "ready and able" to join the squad at such short notice.

"She fitted in really well. It's great."

Ms Baird says Lucy's achievements in rowing at a national and international level are not only due to her own hard work and dedication but to the rowing coaches at Epsom Girls Grammar School.

"It's the club and the coaches who have got her where she is.

"They are fantastic coaches and the support they've given her, that's what really got her there."

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- Central Leader

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