Louise Mendes is ready to take her talents to the world.
The 19-year-old hammer thrower will represent Australia for the first time at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Finland in July.
“It’s just exciting to finally represent Australia,” she said. “It means all the hard work I’ve put in has paid off.
“It’s my first time competing in an IAAF competition overseas and it will be completely different to what I’m used to.”
Mendes was “stoked” when she got the call-up from Athletics Australia.
The Altona resident achieved automatic qualification by winning the under-20 hammer throw competition at the Athletics Australia National Junior Championships in Sydney.
“Winning nationals is such a big thing, but also knowing I’d be automatically selected for my first Australian team was phenomenal,” Mendes said.
“I ended up getting the call a few days later from Athletics Australia to say I’d made it on this team and it was just so exciting.”
Mendes has long been a specialist thrower at her home club, Athletics Essendon.
She dropped off the discus to focus on the shot put and hammer – a decision not taken lightly that is proving to be the right one.
Working under coach Demetri Dionisopoulos, Mendes has taken her career to another level.
Dionisopoulos, a former Australian star hammer thrower himself, has refined Mendes’ throwing technique and helped improve her results.
“I’ve been training with him for almost two years now and he’s really taken me under his wing,” Mendes said. “He was a great athlete back in the day and all my training partners are Australian representatives.
“He’s changed my technique and that’s really what’s helped me qualify and make this competition– his effort and input.”
Mendes has worked super hard to get the best out of herself. She trains six days a week and travels as far as Frankston for specialised coaching and competitions.
“I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices,” she said. “There’s been times where I haven’t been able to attend social gatherings because I’ve had a competition the next day. That’s all part of the sport and everyone experiences that.”
Mendes dreams of representing Australia in open age competition – she sees her trip to Finland as the first steps on the international stage to making that a reality.
“It will be a new and exciting experience and it will give me a taste of international competition,” she said.
“I’ll be competing against people roughly my age and they’re all up and coming athletes that could make it to the senior ranks.
“If I do ever make it to the senior ranks and compete in a senior Australian team, those are the kind of girls I’ll be coming across and I might see some of them in the future.”
Mendes is the April nominee for the Don Deeble Rising Star Award.
The award, hosted by Sunshine Western Region Sports Club and
Star Weekly, recognises young athletes from the western suburbs who have achieved at state and/or national levels.
Mendes will receive $1000, donated by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club, and other prizes to help assist her in achieving her sports goals.