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Commonwealth Games 2022: South West’s Jake Harvie, Nina Kennedy, Alex Saffy and Aran Zalewski on hunt for gold

Headshot of Luke McPherson
Luke McPhersonSouth Western Times
The athletes of the South West continue to punch above their weight, with four of the region’s best set to don the green and gold at the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
Camera IconThe athletes of the South West continue to punch above their weight, with four of the region’s best set to don the green and gold at the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Credit: South Western Times

Four South West athletes are gearing up to don the green and gold and proudly represent the nation when the Commonwealth Games kick off next week.

Jake Harvie, Nina Kennedy, Alex Saffy and Aran Zalewski are set to compete in the games — which begin on July 28 — across three different sports.

The South West products are part of an almost 500-strong Australian team that is looking to bring back a plethora of gold from the UK.

Kookaburra Jake Harvie.
Camera IconKookaburra Jake Harvie. Credit: Hockey Australia

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Jake Harvie - Hockey

The trip to Birmingham will be the second attempt at Commonwealth Games gold for Dardanup’s Jake Harvie, who achieved the feat four years ago on the Gold Goast with the Kookaburras.

The 24-year-old was the youngest member of the Australian side that beat New Zealand 2-0 in the final four years ago, but missed out on selection in last year’s Tokyo Olympics where the Kookaburras earned a silver medal.

Remarkably, the Boynaup Hockey Club product and his teammates will be looking to bring home an unprecedented seventh straight gold medal in the event.

Harvie said he was excited to get back to another major hockey tournament.

“I am always excited to get back to international hockey, regardless of what the competition is,” he said.

“For me international games are everything, I love to take it to another level.

“It was obviously a very challenging experience not to be selected for the Tokyo Olympics, (but) for me it is about how I play the game, not so much what I achieve, so every game presents an opportunity to play the game the way I feel it should be played.”

Nina Kennedy, of Australia, competes in the pole vault at the World Athletics Championships Friday, July 15, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Camera IconNina Kennedy at the World Athletics Championships on July 15 in Eugene, Oregon. Credit: Gregory Bull/AP

Nina Kennedy - Athletics

Busselton-born pole vaulter Nina Kennedy made national news last week when she became the first West Australian to win a medal at the Athletics World Championships in almost a decade after claiming bronze in the pole vault.

Competing at her second Commonwealth Games, the 25-year-old is hoping to surpass her efforts from four years ago when she claimed a bronze medal in Queensland.

The Australian record holder could be set to do so, having lost only to Americans Katie Nageotte (gold) and Sandi Morris (silver), who finished on 4.85m, at the Championships in Oregon.

Kennedy finished at 4.80m — after missing two attempts at 4.85m and one at 4.90m — and said being on the podium at the event would give her confidence for the future.

“I’m so happy with a bronze, it definitely gives me confidence going into the next few years ahead,” she said.

“Those girls are in their 30s, I’m still 25, so I have a few more years to crack that 90 bar.

“I think as athletes we are so used to wanting more but I’m going to soak this up.

“A bronze medal on the world stage is absolutely incredible and I think I’m going to enjoy this feeling for the next few days and next few weeks.”

Alex Saffy bronze meda
Camera IconAlex Saffy Credit: Supplied/TheWest

Alex Saffy - Swimming

Just four years ago, Bunbury teenager Alex Saffy was watching the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in his living room.

Now, the 16-year-old is set to dive into the event at his debut games.

“It is pretty surreal, it is still pretty new to me, and it is crazy how far things have come in the last 18 months,” Saffy said.

“I remember very clearly watching the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, and to be going to my first games four years later is unreal.

“I don’t think anyone expects anything from me but to do my best, so hopefully I can do that and the result will come.

“I would love to get on the podium, but I will see how it goes.”

Saffy has dyskinetic cerebral palsy and used to swim able-bodied, but as the symptoms progressed he was regularly disqualified and encouraged to take up para swimming.

Last month he took home his first international medal on his debut, claiming bronze in the S10 category in the 100m butterfly final at the Para World Swimming Championships in Portugal.

The West Australian Institute of Sport swimmer even qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics but could not be selected because he had not been internationally classified.

“It is pretty unreal, I have been dreaming of this since I was a kid and everything is falling into place at the moment,” he said. “I am just going to live in the moment and enjoy the experience.”

Australian co-captain Aran Zalewski at the Perth Hockey Stadium.
Camera IconAustralian co-captain Aran Zalewski at the Perth Hockey Stadium. Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

Aran Zalewski - Hockey

The Margaret River product who co-captained the Kookaburras side to a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics is chasing a third consecutive gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

Zalewski, who became the South West’s first Olympic medallist since 2004 at the Tokyo Games, is ready to make it three on the trot after earning gold in Glasgow in 2014 and on the Gold Coast four years ago.

Zalewski — who is already a dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist — said while Australia had never achieved less than the ultimate prize at the event, recent strong performances from New Zealand, England and Olympic bronze medallists India meant the men in green and gold needed to be at their best.

“We’re really looking forward to this Commonwealth Games tournament and we have got some tough competition,” he said.

“It’s still a really good competition and it is great for some countries who aren’t at the Olympics to showcase their skills, and you often get some unpredictable results.”

Nina Kennedy of Team Australia celebrates in the women's pole vault final of the World Athletics Championships.
Camera IconNina Kennedy of Team Australia celebrates in the women's pole vault final of the World Athletics Championships. Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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