Olympic campaign a success: team boss
24 February 2014
Australians got the wrong impression of a national team divided at the Winter Olympics after a funding row distracted athletes and administrators alike, according to chef de mission Ian Chesterman.
As the team finished the last day of the Games with their equal-best medal tally of three - but down on expectations after a 50 per cent increase in team size and no gold - Chesterman admitted that the focus had at times gone off sport.
Matters came to a head when snowboarder Belle Brockhoff's father sent an explosive email on the eve of gold medal favourite Alex Chumpy Pullin's snowboard cross event.
It focussed on what he perceived as funding anomalies in the team.
He later apologised for its timing.
Two-time world champion Pullin crashed out in the quarter-finals.
"I don't think any man is an island," said Chesterman of Pullin on Sunday.
"There were a lot of things going through Chumpy Pullin's mind on the morning of his race. It was already delayed by one day and I'm sure that (criticism) wasn't helpful either.
"It certainly doesn't help to have criticism from the outside launched on the eve of competition."
He explained the issue went deeper than Pullin, who was in the crosshairs because of his funding allotment which was in the vicinity of $500,000 over four years.
"I think some of the distractions across the Games have been very unfortunate for us as a team administration and I think that it's unfortunate that the Australian public back home get the sense that there's a disunity in the team because there hasn't been," he said.
"It has been a fantastic team that I have had the pleasure to lead."
While Pullin's funding dwarfed what other members of the snowboard team received, Chesterman denied a decision late in the Games to announce proposed scholarships for two other riders was simply a response to criticisms.
He said it came as part of a new funding cycle and because of late improvement by the snowboarders involved.
Chesterman said the Australian team's performance should be reviewed as a success despite falling short of targets of a top-15 nations finish (Australia was equal 21st on overall medals before the last day of competition) and a suggested four to five medals.
"Did we fail? No," he said.
"Three medals and a host of top five, eight and sixteen results is still a remarkable achievement for a developing winter sport country."
"Did we aim too high? No. If you don't strive you won't achieve.
"Low targets are easy to get but won't create a culture of high performance."
Chesterman said there was the nucleus of a successful team for Korea in four years' time.
He envisaged a similar team size of around 60 for those Games in Pyeongchang.
Of high importance, he added, was getting a water jump facility built on the NSW north coast, to ensure strong aerials, moguls and slopestyle programs.