High Jumper Joel Baden (Vic) bounds into Eugene keen to restart the international career that ended in broken dreams, literally, last year at the pre-World Youth training camp.
After winning the Australian Under 18 title in Perth with a new personal best, Baden was selected for the World Youth Championships, and looked like a strong chance for medal. That all came crashing down when he broke his arms.
"I was trying to dunk a basketball and it went very, very wrong. I broke both arms, ending my dream of competing at world youths. I am very keen to make amends this time. It was an experience that tested my patience, but after accepting the fact that I wasn't able to go to the 2013 World Youth Champs, I decided to focus on World Juniors instead. " said Baden.
After equalling his personal best of 2.16m for the third time during the domestic season it was clear Baden was on the verge of a breakthrough. That came two weeks ago when he leapt 2.20m at a pre departure meet in Brisbane. Add to that a jump of 2.15m at the Harry Jerome Classic last week, and he's set to be one of the main contenders when the final begins on Saturday, 26 July at 11:30am AEST.
The 2.20m performance makes him one of only 13 juniors who have jumped that height this year and with a mere 6cm separating the top jumpers, the event is shaping up as one of the most open of the meet.
"My first aim is to make the final and then from there a personal best. I'd like to be able to better some of the top jumps from the past few world junior championships." said Baden who won't be tempted to take to the court anytime soon though, admitting "It goes without saying that I have left my basketball career behind since then."
Australian high jumpers have an impressive record at the championships with Australian senior record-holder Tim Forsyth, who like Baden was coached by Sandro Bisetto, winning successive silver medals in the early 90s, before senior decathlon record-holder Jagan Hames struck gold in 1994.
The Victorian is joined in Eugene by a strong squad of jumpers and vaulters.
In the pole vault, Jack Hicking (NSW), Kurtis Marschall (SA) don the green and gold for the Spark. Hicking arrives in Eugene in career best shape after smashing his personal best by 21cm last month in Sydney with a vault of 5.26m. That was a NSW junior and senior record and a repeat of that performance will put him right amongst the action when the medals are handed out on Day 5 of the champs.
Earlier in the year, the 19-year old, coached by Zsuzsanna Olgyay-Szabo, won the Australian Junior title with a then personal best equalling 5.05m. A strong performance followed at the senior titles placing 6th behind Commonwealth Games representative Joel Pocklington (Vic).
Teammate Marschall, just 17 years-old and coached by Kym Simons, soared over the 5m barrier for the first time in February with a personal best 5.05m, one week before claiming the South Australian senior title.
Five athletes have cleared 5.40m this year with Frenchman Axel Chapelle topping the charts with 5.52m in May.
West Australian Paul Burgess won this title in 1996 in Sydney and returned two years later and scored a bronze medal in Annecy.
Pole vault: Jack Hicking (NSW), Kurtis Marschall (SA)
High jump: Joel Baden (Vic)
Nicola McDermott (NSW) is ranked 10th in the world in the high jump with a leap of 1.86m which claimed the NSW senior title in March. Two weeks after that, a third place at the Australian Junior Championships secured selection in the Spark team. Finishing second in that event was Cassie Purdon (Qld) who will start the champs in her best ever form after setting a personal best 1.84m at the Harry Jerome Classic two weeks ago.
Junior sensation Eleanor Patterson, who won the Australian Junior title, is ranked equal first with Brit Morgan Lake (GBR) on the world list but is skipping the championships in favour of the Commonwealth Games. Lake has gone the either way, preferring a shot a junior title.
Twelve years ago NSW’s Petrina Price was a bronze medallist in the event in Kingston, Jamaica.
The West Australian pole-vaulting pair of Nina Kennedy (WA) and Emma Phillipe (WA), the gold and silver medallist from the Australian Junior Championships will be looking to emulate training partners Vicky and Liz Parnov both medallists at past editions of these championships.
Kennedy and Phillipe have both vaulted over 4.20m this year, with performances of 4.30m and 4.25m respectively. Kennedy's height coming last week in Vancouver. A height of 4.20m has been good enough for a medal on all but one occasion in the history of the champs.
Russian Alena Lutkovskaya tops the year with a 4.50m indoor leap in Moscow along with her recent 4.46m in Tomblaine, France.
Long jumper and IAAF World Youth Championships representative Audrey Kyriacou (NSW) set a personal best of 6.23m straight off the plane at the Trevor Craven Memorial meet in Vancouver. That followed a win in the 100m at the same meet, and demonstrates she has arrived at the champs in great shape.
Queensland Junior champion Naa Anang, will also join the Kyriacou on the runway. Anang, set a new personal best of 6.27m in February into a strong headwind.
Anang’s training partner, the multi-talented Aliyah Johnson, fourth in the Heptathlon at the World Youth Champs, lines up in the triple jump. That’s an event she won at the Australian Junior a champs in Sydney in March. Her best this year is 12.93m but won the All-Schools title in December last year with a personal best 13.15m.
Pole vault: Nina Kennedy (WA) and Emma Phillipe (WA)
High jump: Cassie Purdon (Qld), Nicola McDermott (NSW)
Long jump: Naa Anang (Qld), Audrey Kyriacou (NSW)
Triple jump: Aliyah Johnson (Qld)
The IAAF World Junior Championships begin 3am AEST Wednesday 23 July in Eugene Oregon (note Eugene is 17 hours behind AEST) and continue until 10am AEST Monday 28 July. Follow all the Spark 14 news and join the conversation by following @AthsAust on Twitter and using the hashtag #Spark14 or by joining the ‘Athletics Australia’ fan page on Facebook.