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Next Winter Games on familiar turf

28 February 2006

Canada’s Whistler, the venue for the next Winter Olympics in 2010, will provide the Australian team with something close a home ground advantage.

The place is full of Aussies. They ski there, they work there, for so many it is their second home.

AOC officials see Vancouver as a “very familiar patch” and a very big positive as they prepare the team to chase more success in four years time. Competing in familiar surrounds is a big plus.

“Vancouver is a place that we know very well, to the Aussies it’s like going to Smiggin Holes” said Australian Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman. “We are expecting a lot of support from the locals”.

With two gold medals in Salt Lake 2002 and gold and bronze in Torino there is an expectation that the bar will be set higher in four years time. “Two is the benchmark that we’ll have to live with” he said.

Planning will begin almost immediately for the 2010 campaign. The main thrust will centre around the successful women’s aerial program run by Geoff Lipshut at the Olympic Winter Institute (OWI). He has a core program which will be built around Lydia Ierodiaconou.

“There is a good group of athletes in the system already. We’ve had a 2010 group for a couple of years now. We have Trudy McIntosh coming back (from injury) and we have Bree Munro” Chesterman said.

Alisa Camplin and Jacqui Cooper have not revealed their future plans but it is expected they will not compete again in Vancouver.

Chesterman believes the OWI can also build its moguls program around Dale Begg-Smith. He believes the gold medal will encourage more young daredevils to try their hand on the bumps.

The other core sports are certain to be snowboard and short track speed skating. The “extreme” sports of snowboard halfpipe and snowboard cross were extremely popular with the fans in Torino and they make for excellent television viewing.

With Australia’s massive surfing culture now flowing through to snowboard the AOC can see an opportunity to dominate snowboard in years to come.

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