What better way to start the festive season than to look back on an event that brought nothing but cheer? The 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games which were held on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, the first ever Games to be held in South America, certainly brought that festival feel. With an Opening Ceremony full of colour, energy and carnival vibes, the first night set the tone for a brilliant few days of competition.
Day one of the highly anticipated athletics and para-athletics action at the Commonwealth Youth Games saw 13 of the 31 Team England athletes kick-start their campaigns and they did so in style. Team England secured a superb four medals, two gold and two silver.
It was a great day to be part of the Team England camp where sprinting was concerned. T38 athlete Maddie Down (coach: Dominic McNeillis, club: Halesowen) secured gold in the 100m in a time of 13.47, an impressive feat which was matched by team captain Teddy Wilson (coach: Tamunonengiye-Ofori Ossai, club: Be Fit Today Track Academy) in the men’s 100m who took gold in a time of 10.43. Teddy was joined on the podium by teammate Ebuka Nwokeji (coach: Ty Holden, club: Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) who finished in second place.
Out on the field, the incredible Bebe Jackson (coach: Michelle Dawson, club: Harlow AC) claimed silver in the F42-44/F61-65 discus, an event she had only taken up this year. Bebe’s final round throw of 24.24m ensured she flew home with a PB as well as a silver medal.Read the full Day 1 report
A thrilling day of track action
Team England won an additional three medals on the second day of action in the Hasley Crawford stadium.
Lyla Belshaw (coach: David Smith, club: Colchester Harriers) ran a tactically brilliant race to finish third in the women’s 1500m in a time of 4.16.37.
It was also the turn of the 400m athletes to see if they could make it onto the podium. England’s Charlotte Henrich (coach: Carlo Monticolombi, club: Invicta East Kent AC) managed to do just that in the women’s event. With 50m to go, Charlotte and Guyana’s Tianna Springer had gained a couple of metres on the rest of the field. From there, it was a battle for top spot. Charlotte took silver, just a tenth of a second behind the winner but was thrilled with her silver medal, knowing that she had given it her all.
The men’s one lap proved to be equally fruitful with Alexander Beck (coach: Mark Upton, club: Winchester & District AC) taking bronze. Again, the last 50m proved to be an exciting affair although this time there were six athletes in contention for the medals. A surge at the very end and a photo finish was enough for Alex to secure third place in a time of 48.20.Read the full Day 2 report
The third day of athletics and para-athletics action at the Commonwealth Youth Games turned out to be a thrilling one where Team England was concerned.
Out in the field, Ethan Glyde (coach: Denis Doyle, club: City of Plymouth AC) dominated in the men’s high jump to win gold with a leap of 2.06m and Maddie Down, posted her furthest jump of the year to take her second gold of the competition, this time in the women’s T38 long jump.
The women’s javelin was certainly a highlight of the day with Team England winning gold and silver medals. Ayesha Jones (coach: Janina Pownall, club: Marshall Milton Keynes AC) took the victory with a throw of 52.49m. This throw was not only a Personal Best but also a Commonwealth Youth Games Record. Harriet Wheeler’s (coach: David McKay, club: West Cheshire Athletics Club) throw of 51.50m was a Personal Best by over one metre and ensured that Team England had dominated in the event.
Another first and second was earned by Team England on the track, in the women’s 400m hurdles. Stephanie Okoro (coach: Tony Benton, club: Havering AC) took the win with Mia Walker (coach: Andrew Fraser, club: Wirral AC) in second. Both secured PBs on their way to the podium and Stephanie’s time of 58.19 saw a second Youth Games Record for Team England.
It seemed to be a good night for English hurdling, as further success came in the women’s 100m hurdles and men’s 110m hurdles. Both Thea Brown (coach: Joanne Harding, club: Sale Harriers Manchester) and Noah Hanson (coach: Carl Graham, club: Newham & Essex Beagles AC) picked up the silver medal in their respective events, ensuring Team England took home eight medals by the close of the evening session.Read the full Day 3 report
Terrific Thursday for Team England
With spirits high from the previous day, Team England was keen to carry momentum into the final session and they did just that.
Phoebe Gill (coach: Deborah Steer, club: St Albans AC) led from gun to tape in the women’s 800m clocking a time of 2:02.30, a PB and a Commonwealth Youth Games Record. Not only was Phoebe’s performance a Games Record but it was also the fastest time run by an U17 British athlete since 1977.
Phoebe’s performance set the tone for a fantastic night of action for Team England endurance athletes. Miles Waterworth (coach: Bruce Warren, club: Brighton Phoenix) took second place in the men’s 800m in a time of 1:52.21 while Eliza Nicholson (coach: Phil Kissi, club: Herne Hill Harriers) took bronze in an extremely competitive 3000m.
It wasn’t just the endurance athletes that added to Team England’s medal tally on the final day. Thea Brown attained her second medal of the week, this time in the women’s high jump. Her jump of 1.78m was enough to secure her the silver medal. Meanwhile, Tom Rutter (coach: John Waugh, club: Hertford & Ware) who had waited all week to compete also achieved a stunning silver. Tom’s PB throw of 67.54m in the men’s javelin landed him on the podium.
Lastly, it was the turn of the two relays teams who had high hopes after successful qualifying runs the day before. First up was the 4x100m team of Mabel Akande (coach: Denise Timmis, club: Lincoln Wellington AC), Teddy Wilson, Noah Hanson and Thea Brown who fought their way to silver.
Finally, the 4x400m squad of Alex Beck, Charlotte Henrich, Stanley Chevous (coach: Lee Bowker, club: Ipswich Harriers) and Stephanie Okoro took to the track. The team battled brilliantly ensuring one last silver medal was packed for the homeward journey.Read the full Day 4 report
Summing it all up
England won 24 medals, topping the athletics and para-athletics table in August. The Games have previously produced great senior athletes including Dina Asher-Smith, Jazmin Sawyers, Sophie McKinna and George Mills. The Commonwealth Youth Games not only give young athletes the opportunity to take part in a major championship but give them a flavour of what to expect at senior events in the future. The Commonwealth Youth Games teaches young athletes to adapt to different situations.
The maturity shown by this young group is something Team Leader, Scott Grace, was particularly thrilled about:
"Performance is always an important part, but actually the mindset, the professionalism was brilliant. This is the first Commonwealth Youth Games post-pandemic. A lot of these athletes went through extremely challenging times just to be able to train. I think the level of resilience we are starting to see is really exciting."