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Injuries the bogeyman for Winter Olympians

11 April 2013

SOCHI 2014: Injury looms as the bogeyman for an Australian Winter Olympics team which is aiming for its most successful Games next February in Sochi.

Australian team chef de mission Ian Chesterman on Wednesday said Australia's biggest team of up to 58 athletes would be eyeing off a record medal haul with four to five podium finishes to have the team among the top 15 nations in Russia.

Chesterman says the target is ambitious but achievable should the team have some luck with injuries.

Vancouver aerials gold medallist Lydia Lassila has an ongoing back problem which she says could lead to her pulling the pin at any time, while slopestyle skiers and major medal chances Anna Segal and Russ Henshaw both sustained knee injuries towards the end of the 2012/13 season.

"I think it's always a concern," Chesterman said of injuries in the sometime fickle world of alpine sports.

"We're a small team with a small base but that's why we have to build depth.

"Inevitably there will be someone lost through injury.

"We have been in a lot worse situation before Games ... we just need everyone fit on the day and, if everyone is, we'll have a hell of a team."

Australia has had its share of injury dramas in the lead-up to and during Winter Olympics Games.

Red hot aerials gold medal favourite Jacqui Cooper crashed out in training just days before the Salt Lake City event of 2002, Lassila blew out her knee in Turin four years later and Dale Begg-Smith also required knee surgery the year before he attempted to defend his 2010 moguls crown.

Chesterman said Henshaw was still competing and skiing, though would likely have to do something with his knee before Sochi while Segal was less of an issue.

As for Lassila, he was hoping her experience would help.

"I think Lyd will be fine. She is an older athlete and it's a tough sport but hopefully that can be managed," he said.

Meanwhile, Chesterman said it was disappointing that an Australian broadcaster had yet to be agreed to for the Games, saying it was the latest it had been left in his 26-year association with the Winter Olympics.

"We're just waiting like everyone else," he said.

"It's a shame for us because we've had such great success and it would be nice to work with a host broadcaster to take advantage of that and build the excitement."

Glenn Cullen

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