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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2006, 00:01 GMT
Sporting hopefuls set for Sydney
Gymnast Louis Smith
Smith won Commonwealth gold in Melbourne in March
Some of Britain's best young athletes are set to get a taste of international competition at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.

The event, which takes place from 17-21 January in Sydney, will see 106 talented Britons aged 13-19 compete across 11 Olympic disciplines.

It will be the first time Team GB have been invited to the Festival.

Among the other teams competing will be the USA, Canada, China, South Africa and Germany, as well as the hosts.

Team GB will take part in canoe/kayak, diving, figure skating, gymnastics, hockey, rowing, sailing, shooting, table tennis and taekwondo.

The Festival, which was set up by the Australian Olympic Committee following the 2000 Olympics aims to reflect the Olympic experience.

Competitors will live in village accommodation, undergo drug testing and take part in traditions such as opening and closing ceremonies, a parade of the athletes and the taking of oaths.

Among the British contingent are a number of competitors already participating at elite level.

Diver Thomas Daley was second in the 10m platform event at the British Senior Championships at the weekend and has been given special dispensation to compete because at just 12 years old he is officially too young;

Gymnast Louis Smith won gold on the pommel horse at this year's Commonwealth Games while Paul Drinkhall has become England number one at table tennis at the age of 16 and Aaron Cook is Commonwealth taekwondo champion.

Chef de mission Mark England, who will be in charge of the GB team, understands the importance of the event in offering experience to the young athletes with the London Games under six years away.

He said: "This provides a fantastic opportunity for over 100 of our finest young potential Olympians.

"With the London Olympic Games less than six years away, now is the time to focus on developing our wealth of young talent. I am convinced that we will be following many of this team all the way to medal glory in 2012 and beyond."


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