Tuesday, 13 July 2010

NZ name youngest ever Commonwealth Games athlete

New Zealand has selected Gabrielle Armstrong-Scott, its youngest ever athlete to participate in Delhi Commonwealth Games later this year.

Armstrong-Scott, a class 10 student at St Catherine's College in Wellington, will represent New Zealand in the 10 metre platform and one metre springboard. Currently aged 13, Gabrielle will be just 14 years and 34 days when the games open on October 3.

Nikki Jenkins, who won gold at the Auckland Commonwealth Games in 1990, was the previous youngest competitor at 14 years and seven months.

Danyon Loader, who holds the greatest number of Commonwealth Games swimming medals, was 14 years and nine months at the Auckland Games.

Diving High Performance Manager Luvaine McDonald says Armstrong-Scott's selection is significant for diving.

"The Commonwealth Games are an elite event in the sport of diving with Australia, Canada and Malaysia producing some of the world's top divers," she said.

"For a minority New Zealand sport, her selection, resulting from current performance, is significant."

McDonald credits coach Steven Zhu, originally from China, as well as a strong team of sponsors and professionals behind Armstrong-Scott.

"With private funding we were able to bring Steven to Wellington. He has coached medal-winning Chinese Olympians and we are seeing his work with Gabrielle pay-off."

Armstrong-Scott trains 22 hours each week with sessions taking place before and after school and is focused on executing more difficult dives to increase her ability to score well.

While the selection criteria for the Commonwealth Games is a top six ranking, Armstrong-Scott sits just outside this, ranked currently ninth in the Commonwealth.

New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary general Barry Maister believes flexibility in Armstrong-Scott's case is warranted.

"The level of competition within diving at the Commonwealth is extremely high and Olympic medalists will be among those competing at Delhi," he said.

"These factors, combined with Gabrielle's age, rate of improvement and the fact she is competing in a non-funded sport, contributed to the selectors decision. She is a strong prospect for the London Olympic Games and beyond."

Armstrong-Scott will head to Tuscon, Arizona this September for the Junior World Championships as part of her pre-games build-up.

New Zealand Commonwealth Games squad is expected to number 195 athletes and 100 support staff. The final selections will be made in early August and the Commonwealth Games take place in Delhi, India, October 3-14.


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