Athletes primed to shine on global stage

Three students from the same school will head to South Korea next month for the International Children’s Games. Luke Horton reports.

Three students, two standing and one sitting, with their principal. Three students, two standing and one sitting, with their principal.
Image: Whitebridge High students Lacy Barnes, Hamish Ihle and Tahlia Smith with school principal Nadene Harvey.

Three Whitebridge High students, from Awabakal Country, will head to South Korea next month as part of a contingent of Lake Macquarie athletes participating in the 2023 International Children’s Games.

Swimmer Hamish Ihle, long-distance runner Lacy Barnes and shot putter Tahlia Smith will travel to the city of Daegu in July for five days of competition against some of the best young athletes in the world.

For Year 9 student Hamish, the trip is a chance to emulate his swimming hero Ian Thorpe in competing on the world stage.

“When I was younger, I used to love watching his (Thorpe’s) races on YouTube,” Hamish said.

“I’ll be swimming six events while I’m over there, including two relays. My best chance for a medal is probably either the 50-metre freestyle or one of the relays.”

Hamish trains six days a week at Charlestown Swim Centre and earlier this year won the 2.5-kilometre open water swim at the Sydney Regatta. He also competes with Redhead Surf Life Saving Club.

Year 7 student Tahlia Smith is the youngest of the Lake Macquarie contingent heading to South Korea.

The emerging track and field star is a talented young thrower, with a personal best of 7.7 metres in the shot put.

“I’m looking forward to meeting new people. I’ve never been overseas before, so I’m just hoping to enjoy the experience and do my best,” the 12 year old said.

Runner Lacy Barnes will compete in the 800 metres and is hoping for a mid-field finish in her race.

The Year 8 student has been competing in Little Athletics since under 7s with the Eastlakes club.

“I’m probably best at the longer distances, either 800 metres or the 1500 metres,” she said.

“I’d be pretty happy with a mid-pack finish.”

The youngster trains three to four days a week in a gruelling regime that includes four 200-metre sprints, four 400-metre sprints and an 800-metre run.

Whitebridge High Principal Nadene Harvey said the three students were outstanding ambassadors for their school, as well as the broader Lake Macquarie community.

“At Whitebridge High we’re always proud of the achievements of our students. We encourage them to take on new and exciting challenges and put themselves out there, and Hamish, Lacy and Tahlia are doing just that,” she said.

“This is not just a great opportunity for them through sport, but it’s a great life opportunity as well and hopefully it will inspire other students to do similar things.”

The 55th International Children’s Games will run over five days from 5-10 July.

Athletes compete in events including athletics, swimming, tennis and volleyball.

The International Children’s Games were founded in 1968 in Celje, Slovenia, to ‘enable, develop, and advance the meeting, understanding and friendship of students from different countries and promote the Olympic ideal’.

The Games brings together an alliance of cities and individuals from around the globe who have a common goal of forming friendships and peace through sport.

Lake Macquarie was the first city in the southern hemisphere to host the games, winning the bid in 2010 to host the 48th Summer International Children’s Games in December 2014.

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