Adelaide Blackhawks
 
 

ICE HOCKEY: Young ice hockey stars Jake Riley and Madison Poole have become Australia's first athletes to qualify for the 2016 Lillehammer Youth Olympics.

Competing in the Global Skills Challenge in Vierumaki, Finland, Riley and Poole needed to finish in the top fifteen of the six event tournament to confirm their places at the second Winter Youth Olympic Games. 

Former short track specialist Poole finished third overall after consistent results throughout that included her winning the fastest lap and passing precision events.

"I felt both nervous and excited as I knew how important such an event was but at the same time was able to enjoy myself, have fun, and have the experience of a lifetime," said Poole.

"I feel as though I went well, but as this is the first stage of my Youth Olympic journey I know I will only progress over time.

"The qualification had it's ups and downs in terms of performance but I am proud of what I did and how I represented my country.

"Right now I feel speechless. I am excited however to represent Australia at the sport I love and for the chance for me to fulfill my Olympic dream to come true. I can not wait for the journey ahead."

Riley put in a series of top ten performances to finish tenth overall which included a semi final appearance in the skating agility component. Surprisingly Riley could not make it out of the first round of the fastest shot test despite hitting the puck at over 112 km/ph.

"I felt like I was a bit under pressure, especially when it came down to the end of the testing," Riley said.

"To find out I made it into the Youth Olympics is very exciting and motivating.

"I never thought I would be able to get this far so soon and Norway will be a blast. I can't wait."

The pair were joined in Finland by coach Tamra Jones who believes Poole and Riley's achievements are a boost for the sport in Australia. 

"It is a very exciting time for Australian ice hockey right now," Jones said.

"We made people take notice of Australia and acknowledge the talent our players demonstrated throughout the qualification process. I am very proud of Madison and Jake for the way they conducted themselves on and off the ice all week."

Jones is confident her athletes won't just be there to make up the numbers when the Lillehammer 2016 Games kick off in just over 200 days. 

"Personally I am honoured to have the opportunity to work with them both, as we continue on our journey to Norway.

"We will take time to celebrate tonight and then recover for a couple weeks but then there is work to do, to ensure we can be medal contenders come February.

"I am confident with some hard work we will continue to turn heads in Lillehammer." ?

The pair will now be nominated to the Australia Olympic Committee for selection.

Matt Bartolo

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