Vancouver 2010 qualification battle heats up
4 November 2009
More than 40 Australian winter sports athletes will resume their Vancouver 2010 Olympic qualifying campaigns this month, as World Cup and America’s Cup competition gets underway in short and long track speed skating, skeleton, snowboard halfpipe, cross country skiing, alpine skiing, bobsleigh and luge.
It is crunch time in particular for the nation’s short track skaters, with results in World Cup competition in the North American cities of Montreal and Marquette over the next two weekends determining their Olympic destiny.
Tatiana Borodulina will lead the Australian short track qualifying campaign. The Brisbane 24-year-old is currently ranked fifth in the world for the 1500m distance and is top 20 in both the 500m and 1000m, but still needs to post top 32 results over the coming two World Cup meets to secure a berth in any of the three events at the Games.
She will be skating alongside five Australian men, with two of them - Lachlan Hay and Elliott Shriane - both trying to qualify for their second Olympics.
On November 12, the Australian Institute of Sport skeleton scholarship athletes will start the first of seven World Cup events that will decide how many representatives the nation will have in Vancouver.
The AIS/OWI team finished in fifth position last season, and if it can maintain a place among the top six nations in the lead-up to the Games, Australia will earn two places in the Vancouver field.
Our two top sliders, Emma Lincoln-Smith and Michelle Steele, both recorded top five results in the past season – Steele in World Cup and Lincoln-Smith at the World Championships – so hopes are high that two Australian skeleton athletes will be marching in Canada in February.
Two other members of the AIS/OWI team, Melissa Hoar and Lucy Chaffer, will compete in Intercontinental Cup events.
The Australian Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association also has two male athletes, Anthony Deane and John Farrow, who will be competing on the second tier America's Cup circuit races in an attempt to qualify for the 2010 Games.
Torah Bright, Ben Mates and Scott James will continue their quest to qualify for the Games in a halfpipe World Cup in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, on Thursday night, Australian time.
Bright, who is rated in the world’s top three snowboarders through her performances on the pro circuit, needs to lift her Olympic qualifying ranking from its current position of 24th to make sure she secures a place in the 30-woman field in Vancouver, but that should not be a problem for the 23-year-old rider.
James, just 15-years-old, is currently ranked in 74th position on the men’s qualifying list, so faces a more difficult task, but on his side is the fact that the men’s Olympic field is ten places larger at 40 competitors.
Mates is ranked 29th going into the season, and should be able to add a Vancouver appearance to his Torino Olympic debut.
AIS scholarship riders Nate Johnstone and Holly Crawford have both opted to miss the Swiss event.
Johnstone is currently ranked first on the Olympic qualifying list and Crawford is one place further back on the women’s rankings, so neither can be ousted from the Games’ field.
World Cup competition in long track speed skating also commences this coming weekend in Berlin, with three Australians taking their places in the field.
Former national short track representative Ben Southee will take on the 500m, 1000m and 1500m events, while two former in-line skaters who have made the transition from roller blades to ice skates - Sophie Muir and Josh Lose - will also make their long track debut in the German event.
Southee set new Australian records in the 500m and 1500m during a Calgary Invitational meet at the end of October, in the process making the World Cup qualifying standard.
Sophie Muir, a multiple World Inline Champion at junior and open level, will skate the 500m and 1000m, while Lose, who is a World Inline Championships silver medallist, will skate the 5000m in Berlin.
Daniel Greig, a third skater to move across from the in-line discipline, has been temporarily side-lined with injury, but is also attempting to qualify for Vancouver, as is 1998 Nagano Olympic short track representative Richard Goerlitz. Both have also qualified for World Cup, Greig in 500m and Goerlitz in 1500m.
Should any of the five meet the Vancouver qualification standard and be selected by the AOC, it will be the first time since the 1994 Lillehammer Games that Australia has had Olympic representation in any of the long track events.
NSWIS and AIS alpine skiers Craig Branch and Jono Brauer will line-up in Lake Louise, Canada, on November 28 as World Cup speed events get underway for the 2009/10 season.
Both have International Ski Federation rankings that qualify them for the Games, so the coming season is all about building confidence, striving for a better start position at the Games and, in the case of Brauer, completing a come-back from knee surgery.
Torino luge representative Hannah Campbell-Pegg will start her campaign for Vancouver at a World Cup in Calgary, Canada, then tackle three more pre-Christmas races in Europe to complete the qualification process for the 2010 Games.
Campbell-Pegg needs to finish the four events ranked in the top 30 in the world in an Olympic-adjusted field (a maximum of three luge athletes per country are permitted to compete in Vancouver).
The 27-year-old Sydney athlete finished in 25th place on the (Olympic-adjusted) World Cup standings last season, but also finished 20th in the World Championships, so she also seems a strong chance to go to her second Winter Games.
Cross country skiing
Australia’s cross country distance athletes Ben Sim, Aimee Watson and Callum Watson and sprint specialists Paul Murray, Esther Bottomley and Mark van der Ploeg will all compete in the opening World Cup in Beitostolen, in Norway on November 21.
Going into the season, Australia’s Vancouver Olympic quota is three athletes, with extra places at the Games dependant on Sim and Bottomley improving their world rankings over the next six weeks of competition.
Last - and largest, not least - 11 Australian men and two women will hurl themselves down the 2002 Olympic bobsleigh track in Park City at the end of the month, in preparation for seven America’s Cup events.
The Australian Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association plans to field three 2-man and two 4-man teams in the second-tier men’s competition in the quest for Olympic qualifying points, with Torino Olympian Jeremy Rolleston, former Perth beach sprinter Travis Sheehy and Calgary-based Chris Spring the designated pilots.
Another Torino 2006 team member, Astrid Loch-Wilkinson, will pilot the women’s sled with Ebony Lynch as her crew.
Olympic Winter Institute of Australia