Sydney delivers Sochi awakening

9 May 2013

SOCHI 2014: With just nine months to go until the next Olympic Winter Games in Russia, over 30 Australian athletes gathered on the other side of the world to brace for Sochi 2014.

Olympic hopefuls from biathlon, bobsleigh, figure skating, freestyle skiing, luge, short track speed skating, skeleton and snowboard took part in a Team Assembly organised by the Australian Olympic Committee at the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) in Sydney today.

Track and field Olympian Jana Pittman was among the athletes and officials being fitted for Team uniforms, participating in medical screenings and planning briefings, and meeting athletes from other sports.

“It’s been fantastic to be among elite sport again and I am really grateful for this opportunity,” said Pittman, who was ruled out of the London Olympic Games due to injury and took up the sport of bobsleigh.

This was the second and final Team Assembly for the Australian Winter Olympic shadow Team following a successful session in Melbourne last week with World Champions Alex Pullin, Holly Crawford and Anna Segal and Olympic Champion Lydia Lassila.

Such is the high calibre of the 2014 Team, Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman described it as “our biggest and our strongest” Team.

“We’ve got the best credentialed Team we’ll ever take and hopefully they all have their best day on the right day,” he said.

The official countdown to Sochi now stands at 274 days to go, and every day counts.

“It’s actually becoming real now,” said Russ Henshaw, whose sport of ski slopestyle is on debut in Sochi.

“There has been a lot of talk about the Olympics, but to come here and get everything fitted... All of the talk and hype here is making it real,” Henshaw said.

“It’s been a fun and exciting day,” added 2011 snowboard halfpipe World Champion Nate Johnstone.

“I guess coming here today it actually opens your eyes and you realise Sochi is so close.”

“It makes it really exciting. Everyone is here getting their fittings done and it’s like ‘Oh my God it’s just around the corner!’”

The highlight for most athletes was trying on the Team Uniforms provided by Australian Olympic Team suppliers adidas, Blundstone, Karbon and XTM.

“I think trying on all of the uniforms and seeing what you’re going to be wearing during the Opening Ceremony is probably the most exciting part,” Johnstone said.

“Hopefully it looks good on me!” Henshaw laughed.

One of the youngest participants in the Assembly was Townsville luge athlete Alex Ferlazzo.

“I mean, getting new clothes is always exciting, but when it has Australia written all over it that’s even better!” Ferlazzo said.

“Wearing the Olympic rings is the biggest honour - it always makes me stand up a bit taller.”

Ferlazzo was one of three members of Australia’s 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Team at the Team Assembly hoping to graduate to the Olympic stage. Chantelle Kerry (figure skating) and Lucy Glanville (biathlon) were also present in Sydney, while Team Flagbearer Greta Small (alpine) and bronze medallist Alex Fitch (snowboard) attended the Melbourne session.

“Even just this one day of being a prospective Team member has been amazing,” Kerry said.

“The experience of meeting other athletes and being briefed on what’s going to happen - it just makes it more of a reality and it just makes me more motivated to want to get to Sochi.”

Taya Conomos

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