GERRINGONG’S Grace Stewart will fly the South Coast flag in Rio de Janeiro after being selected in the Hockeyroos team to play at the 2016 Olympics Games.
The 19-year-old, who is over the moon, will be Australia’s youngest hockey player at the Games.
“We found out on Friday via email which worked out great, as I was home with my family,” Stewart said.
“It was such a surreal feeling after I opened the email and I had to double check my name, as I wasn’t sure.
“But it was very exciting to be at home and to share that moment with my family, who have supported me throughout my whole career.”
It has been as astronomical rise for Stewart, who only made her Hockeyroos debut last year.
“Growing up, both mum and dad have been huge influences on my career and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” she said.
“I didn’t expect for it all (making the Hockeyroos team) to happen this quickly but it was obviously something I have been working towards for a long time.”
Stewart, who is now in camp with the squad in Perth, said preparations are ramping up before the start of the August competition.
“We have three weeks of training before heading to Chile for a practice game, before actually heading to Rio,” she said.
“The whole squad is pretty confident at the moment, as we have been playing some really strong hockey.
“It’s all about adding those final touches, training well and hope it all leads well in to the Games.
“If we can do all that, I think we have a strong chance of getting a medal, which is obviously the goal.
“In our pool, both Argentina and New Zealand will be tough, as will the Netherlands if we cross over against them, but I have the confidence that we can beat them all.”
Head coach Adam Commens said picking the 2016 Olympic team was the toughest the selection panel has seen in recent Olympic history.
"In the end we have selected a fantastic group of players that are all in fantastic form,” Commens said.
“To win Olympic medals, it's important to have in form players that are also on the improve.
“We have this throughout our Olympic selection of 16 and I'm excited by our prospects in Rio."
Joining Stewart in the team will be fellow South Coast athlete Casey Sablowski, of Albion Park, who was the youngest player at the Beijing 2008 Games and will now compete in third third Olympic Games.
Australia's women head into the first South American Games as world number three, and will compete in Pool B against Argentina (#2), Great Britain (6), USA (7), Japan (10) and India (13).
Competition starts on August 6 and will feature a new format.
The top four from each of the two pools will progress to the all-or-nothing quarter-finals as each team pushes towards the gold medal match on August 18.
The Hockeyroos squad is: Brooke Peris, Casey Sablowski, Edwina Bone, Emily Smith, Gabrielle Nance, Georgie Parker, Georgina Morgan, Grace Stewart, Jane-Anne Claxton, Jodie Kenny, Karri McMahon, Kathryn Slattery, Kirstin Dwyer, Madonna Blyth, Mariah Williams, Rachael Lynch.
These 16 athletes take the overall 2016 Australian Olympic Team to 276 from 22 sports, with an expected final team of around 410 athletes.