Winter athletes take next step to Sochi1 May 2013
TEAM: The Olympic Winter Games in Sochi may be 282 days away, but the first Australian Team Assembly held at the IceHouse in Melbourne today marked a significant step on the road to Russia for many of Australia’s finest athletes.
Defending Olympic Aerial Skiing Champion Lydia Lassila and World Snowboard Cross Champion Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin were among the forty Olympic Team hopefuls in Melbourne. Also present were key high performance officials who will travel to Sochi in February 2014.
Experienced Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman stressed the importance of the day for the athletes’ preparations.
"The Team Assembly is the time where we all come together from across different sports to start the formation of one team- the Australian Olympic Team,” Chesterman said.
“Without doubt this is a significant time for everyone involved and pulls in to sharp focus that the Games are only eight months away."
Athletes were briefed by Chesterman and other AOC staff members on what to expect and how to best prepare for Sochi. Athletes participated in media interviews, medical screenings, and most excitingly, were fitted for their green and gold Olympic uniforms.
It is a promising time for winter sports in Australia. Not only will the 2014 Australian Olympic Team be our biggest Winter Team ever- with 56 athletes expected to qualify- it will also be the strongest, according to Chesterman.
“We are coming off a record international season of success for winter athletes. We have had 25 World Cup or World Championship medals won by 14 athletes across 12 different events,” he said in reference to a stellar 2012-2013 season.
“We have set ourselves a target to finish in the top 15 nations based on medals won in Sochi. Without doubt this is a stretch target but one which we believe is achievable.
“It would be easy to set ourselves a lower target, but that is not the Australian Olympic way. We will work enormously hard to help our athletes achieve their very best. We we will take our best credentialed Team ever to Sochi.”
Australia has a very proud Olympic history on the winter stage, collecting medals at every Olympic Winter Games since 1994. At the last Games in Vancouver with a Team of 40 athletes, Australia won a record three medals (two gold medals and one silver medal).
The city of Sochi will provide a unique Games experience- what has traditionally been seen as a Russian summer retreat is being transformed into a winter “Disneyland.” Little expense has been spared and these are set to be the most expensive Games in history- Summer or Winter.
“Athletes have never been better catered for like this before, with all but a few able to walk to their training and competition venue,” Chesterman said.
“Everything that everyone touches - athletes, sponsors, media, Olympic family, spectators - is brand new, put in place by a highly committed Organising Committee and Government to make these Games a success.
Australia will field world class athletes in the exciting new events of snowboard slopestyle, ski slopestyle and ski halfpipe helping provide opportunity for more medals and top 10 performances than ever before.
Since 1997 the Australian Olympic Committee has invested over $30 million in winter sport, including $8 million to prepare and send the Team to Sochi 2014.
Over 40 athletes attended the Team Assembly in Melbourne with a second Team Assembly being held in Sydney at NSWIS on the 9th of May.