Australia has right blend for Sochi success
23 December 2013
TEAM: Australia’s winter athletes head to the Christmas break “growing in confidence and well positioned for a top 15 finish on the overall medal tally at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in February” according to Olympic Winter Institute (OWIA) boss, Geoff Lipshut.
Particularly pleasing for Lipshut is that the younger athletes are coming to the fore and supporting the elite performers in the group. “The results have been outstanding and the younger ones are actually taking the pressure off the more established athletes,” Lipshut said.
With a record Team of around 60 athletes expected in Sochi the podium finishes just keep on coming. On the final weekend of World Cup competition, three Australians won medals.
NSWIS snowboard cross rider, 18 year-old Jarryd Hughes, grabbed his maiden victory at Lake Louise in Canada, reigning aerials Olympic Games gold medalist, Lydia Lassila took silver in Beijing, China, and ski slopestyle athlete, Russ Henshaw, finished third in Copper Mountain, USA, repeating his performance at the big Dew Tour event the previous weekend.
Lipshut says it was enormously pleasing to see Hughes’ result in particular.
“It was fantastic performance by Jarryd who in the first two races of the season has shown that he is a force to be reckoned with,” Lipshut said.
“For him to notch up a win so early in his comeback from a serious knee injury is fantastic, a demonstration of his great skill on the board and full credit must go to him and the NSWIS team that supports him.
"The work that he put in during his rehabilitation has really paid off. He worked really hard with our OWIA athlete preparation manager, sport physiologist John Marsden, and our OWIA strength and conditioning coach, Mike Talic, and both sing his praises as the road back from such a serious injury is never easy.
“The OWIA is pleased to be an active partner of the NSWIS snowboard cross program, and we are thrilled that it is having success this season through Jarryd Hughes, and we saw strong results from another NSWIS athlete, Belle Brockhoff, last year.
"Let’s hope that the other NSWIS athletes, Cam Bolton and Daniel Morrissey can have a good January and we take a super strong snowboard cross group to Sochi.
"We're well placed to have the world number one in the sport, Chumpy Pullin, and now the brightest young rider in the field at just 18 years of age, Jarryd Hughes, looking like success is within their grasp."
Pullin was unlucky to have the back of his board clipped near that start of his first round final, but Lipshut says the two-time world champion will also bounce back after the break.
“Chumpy has shown his class time and again, so we have no doubt that he will be back as a serious contender with the two remaining World Cup events leading into Sochi,” Lipshut said.
“Chumpy has a very strong program run through the OWIA, but it is very good that we have both that program and the NSWIS program producing riders who can be the best in the world on their day.”
“Four years ago when the OWIA set up the current snowboard cross program, Chumpy was our only world cup rider. Now, through the work of the NSWIS program, we are seeing depth created, which is very promising for the future.”
Lassila, who took nearly three years out of the sport to have a child, was close to being back to her best in China, completing a number of big triple summersaults and getting close to landing her triple twisting triple summersault she last used in the final at Vancouver.
“For Lydia, and for Russ, it is about being able to be consistent. Russ has demonstrated that he is right in the mix every outing and for Lydia to take on the might of the Chinese team in China and walk away with a second placing, shows that she is getting back to where she needs to be.”
“We have been buoyed by the performances of snowboarder, Scott James, and mogul skier, Britteny Cox, who both competed at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver as 15 year olds”.
After a two week break, the World Cup programs for most Australian winter sport athletes get under way on the first weekend in January, with the Sochi qualification period due to end on January 20, when the AOC will announce its Sochi team.