Awaba middle-distance runner Luke Young is back in training for the Youth Olympic Games after undergoing surgery to remove a starfish spike from his foot.
The 16-year-old, who was named in the Australian team earlier this month, was forced to have the surgery two months out from the Games, which are being held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Young had unknowingly carried the spike around in his right foot since May, when he competed at the Games qualifier, the Oceania Melanesian Regional Championships in Vanuatu.
He accidentally stepped on a starfish while launching a boat from the beach after competition had concluded.
It happened a day before he was due to return home and while he thought the spikes had been removed in Vanuatu, one remained stuck in his right foot.
Unaware it was still there, he continued to front regular training and competed at multiple events over the next couple of months. He won at the short course, long course and all schools cross country championships despite the spike still being in his foot.
“I just thought it was a cut opening up,” Young said.
“I kept running on it and kept opening up the cut, but then it got infected.
“My coach told me to go to the doctors and then they said, ‘you need to get an ultrasound or an x-ray on it to see what’s going on’.
“I had 7mm of starfish still in my foot.”
Young said the surgery was “quite a big disruption” and “ruined” his coach’s training plan, but he is glad he had it done and can push ahead with training for the “once-in-a-lifetime” Games, which begin on October 6.
“It’s exciting, I’ll get to go over and compete on what is almost the biggest stage,” he said. “It’s just against people my age, so it levels out the playing field for me to make sure I don’t have to run against the elite [senior] athletes just yet.
“But I’ll be up against some world class athletes still.
“It’s definitely the biggest event I’ll have competed in.”
Young, who is in Year 11 at Toronto High School, trains six days a week at various locations around the Hunter.
He is coached by Jason Maxwell and has been running since joining Little Athletics at age six.
He qualified in the 1500m and 3000m for the Youth Olympic Games, but could only choose one to compete in and chose the 1500m.
“I’ve been running 1500 well and I just think I’m a bit better at it to be honest,” he said. “It’s quite a fun race, a bit tactical and a nice distance as well.”
With a personal best of 3 minutes and 48 seconds, Young is hopeful of a good result in Argentina, but he has seen the “intimidating” qualifying times of others.
“I think my time is the seventh best. For a while it was number one. I was pretty disappointed when it started moving down,” he joked.