Young athletes raising the bar | ourballarat summer 2022-23

Ballarat’s thriving athletics community has plenty to look forward to at the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games. With Ballarat to host athletics and para-athletics events, some up-and-coming local athletes are in line for this once in a lifetime opportunity to compete in a major international meet in their home city. Not only that, investment in facilities for the Games will benefit Ballarat track and field athletes for years to come.

Young Ballarat athletes Yual Reath and Lachlan O’Keefe aim for new heights at the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.

In March 2026, Ballarat’s Lachlan O’Keefe and Yual Reath plan to be in the same place at the same time.

The place is Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium and the event is the men’s high jump final at the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.

The athletics and para-athletics events are expected to draw the biggest crowds of the Games, with an additional 18,000 temporary and 5,000 permanent seats to be added to Eureka Stadium’s capacity as part of a $150 million upgrade to the stadium and surrounding precinct.

A new permanent athletics facility will be built on the Showgrounds site, south of Eureka Stadium, to serve as a warm-up track during the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.

The developments have special significance for Yual, 22, and Lachlan, 17, who have emerged as serious contenders in the men’s high jump at a national and international level.

a girl running on an athletics track

In December 2021 Yual cleared 2.25m, one of just four Australians to reach that height in 2021.

In 2022 he became national high jump champion and represented Australia at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in the United States.

In August 2022, Lachlan made the final of the World Athletics U20 Championships in Colombia where, competing against athletes up to two years older, he finished an impressive eighth.

The chance to represent Australia in front of tens of thousands of people in Ballarat is in the sights of both athletes.

“It definitely gets you fired up,” Yual says.

“It would be a dream come true jumping in front of a home crowd and having family and friends come to watch.”

Lachlan agrees.

“That’s one of my big goals. It would mean a lot because I get to show (family and friends) all the effort and hard work I’ve put in has paid off, and they would get to watch me do what I love doing.”

While both have big ambitions, they are each firmly grounded in Ballarat.


Lachlan was the first student from Nerrina’s Little Bendigo Primary School to make the state athletics championships in the high jump – and won.

Originally from South Sudan, Yual’s family came to Ballarat from Egypt in 2007.

He remembers walking to Macarthur Street Primary School on a day when it snowed and asking his father what was going on.

For now, Yual and Lachlan must balance their athletic dreams with work and school commitments — Yual is completing a landscaping apprenticeship while Lachlan has just finished Year 11 at St Patrick’s College.

Ballarat’s Paul Cleary coaches the pair and says their friendly rivalry — and ability — is helping drive them both to new heights.

“It’s a competition all the time, which is a good thing to have two guys pushing each other,” Paul says.

Yual and Lachlan are the latest of many Ballarat athletes to achieve success in elite level competition, reflecting the strength of local athletics clubs and coaching expertise.

“People don’t realise but Ballarat has a really strong athletics community,” Paul says.

Yual says the chance to see elite athletes up close will inspire younger Ballarat athletes to aim high and others to take up athletics for the first time.

“I reckon it will definitely influence the younger generation to do more track and field,” Yual says. 

girl athlete

City of Ballarat Council Plan Alignment

The projects, initiatives, and ideas in this article align with the following goals of the City of Ballarat Council Plan 2021-2025:

Goal 6 

A Council that provides leadership and advocates for its community