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Athletes praise world-class Hunter Sports Centre

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Elite local athletes have given the Hunter Sports Centre a unanimous “thumbs up” after road-testing the new facilities earlier this week.

World under-20 discus No. 2 Ashlyn Blackstock, Paralympian Evan O’Hanlon and up-and-coming track stars Shari Hurdman and Janice Hicks all admit the Lake Macquarie venue is now second-to-none outside Sydney.

A striking practice and four-lane warm-up track, featuring a 110m straight and a 40m bend, was completed in time for this weekend’s Regional Little Athletics Championships, which will feature almost 1,000 youngsters participating from the Hunter and Central Coast.

The new practice track at the Hunter Sports Centre.

The $2.7 million project – to be officially opened on Friday 3 February – also included construction of warm-up areas for field events such as shotput, hammer thrown and discus, with state-of-the-art sports science space for athlete testing and performance monitoring still to come.

The work was jointly-funded by the Australian Government, NSW Government and Lake Macquarie City Council.

“Every major event I’ve gone to so far this season, there has been no discus warm-up area,” Blackstock said.

“So, this is just amazing.

“I can’t wait to compete here.”

Shari Hurdman, 15, hits the new sprint track.

Hunter Sports Centre general manager Brendan Barrett explained the track provided room for athletes to warm up and practice on 100m sprints, with a 15m “deceleration zone”, as well as a bend to practice other disciplines such as hurdles and relay.

“Having the warm-up and practice facilities is the last hurdle we have to clear to be certified as a World Class 1 facility,” he said.

“This will enable us to host national and international athletes and events, so it’s a very exciting period.”

Mr Barrett said the new facilities – nestled within bushland, with a green canopy arching above parts of the straight – would be open to all Hunter Sports Centre users, including school groups, Little Athletics clubs, seniors and elite competitors.

“They are uniquely situated with native wilderness as a backdrop,” he added.

“It means that athletes will be warming up in a quiet and focused space, close to the main track.”

Paralympian Evan O’Hanlon practices on the new track.

Lake Macquarie City mayor Kay Fraser said planning was now well underway to add a new Trampoline Centre of Excellence to the Hunter Sport Centre, together with a major redevelopment to include a three-storey sport and community centre.

“This expansion will put Lake Mac on the national and international map for athletics and other sports,” she reiterated.

“Our region punches above its weight for producing top-level athletes.

“So, this new centre will help train and nurture the next generation of stars.”

Hunter MP Dan Repacholi said the Australian Government was proud to have delivered $960,000 to make the world-class facility a reality.

“As someone who has competed at the highest levels, I know how important it is to have good facilities for training and competition,” he explained.

“These will draw the best of the best to Lake Macquarie for national and international events, which is exciting for our region.”

NSW Minister for Sport Alister Henskens said Hunter Sports Centre would help cultivate the state’s next generation of athletics champions.

“We recognise that having access to quality spaces and places is key to the success of our emerging athletes,” he stated.

“Facilities such as these are vital to the development of our athletes, and contribute to the state’s sustained success on the national and international stage.” 

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