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Thornton named as Closing Ceremony Flag Bearer

28 August 2014

TEAM: Sydney teenager, Jessica Thornton has been announced as the Flag Bearer for the Closing Ceremony of the second summer Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Nanjing, China.

Australian Youth Olympic Team Chef de Mission, Susie O’Neill announced the 16-year-old will have the honour of representing Australia at the BK Awards, an event designed to celebrate the ending of the Games for the Australian Team, as well acknowledging some individual efforts both on and off the field.

“I’m very honoured, very excited and can’t wait to walk out into the stadium for the last team event,” Thornton said.

“I’m speechless. I can’t describe how happy I am with this whole experience and the competition.”

Hailing from Chifley in the south-eastern suburbs of Sydney, Jessica came into the YOG with a PB of 53.90 seconds and leaves China with 52.50s and the gold medal. This time now currently ranks her as third fastest Australian of all ages for 2014.

Former two-time world 400m hurdles champion and triple Olympian Jana Pittman holds the Australian under-18 record at 51.80s. She ran this as a 17-year-old, 10 months before making her Olympic debut at Sydney 2000.

2000 Olympic champion Cathy Freeman focused on the 100m and 200m as a 16-year-old. When she was 19 she had started to move to the 400m. She had a PB of 51.14 and she competed at her first Olympics in 1992, and ran 51.52 to place fifth in the quarter-final.

“For me, the Flag Bearer at the Closing Ceremony is traditionally the best performer of the Games,” O’Neill said.

These Games have been extremely successful for the Aussie contingent, all up winning 26 medals – 5, gold, 4 silver and 17 bronze.

“The athletics team has gone so well and it’s the most popular event at these Games,” O’Neill said.

“The most number of countries compete in it, so to win a gold medal in it is an achievement,” she added.

Prior to the announcement O’Neill said - ”I’d imagine she’d be pretty excited, hopefully she’ll be shocked at excited. I got to carry the flag once in a Commonwealth Games closing [ceremony] so I know that I was hugely honoured that I was picked as the best performer.”

When asked to some her entire YOG experience, Thornton said.

“One word...Incredible.”

“It’s been amazing. The whole cultural stuff, the village experience and then competing and wearing the green and gold has been amazing,” the teenager said.

When Thornton steps out into the arena – only one thing will be going through her mind.

“Hopefully I don’t fall over.”

In just hours the curtain will close on what has been an amazing Games for all involved. Athletes, officials and volunteers alike will farewell Nanjing as they reflect on what a successful Games it has been.

Sam Rawlings

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