25 January 2010
Australia has a strong Olympic history in freestyle skiing and this medal success looks set to continue at the Vancouver Games. The Australian Olympic Committee confirmed the selection of the formidable freestyle skiing team today.
Led by defending moguls champion Dale Begg-Smith, aerials world record holder Lydia Lassila and former world record holder Jacqui Cooper this squad is the envy of most nations.
There will be plenty of local interest in Canadian born Dale Begg-Smith who grew up skiing the hills around Vancouver.
Cooper’s selection is a record in itself. She becomes the first Australian women to be selected for five Olympic teams, summer or winter. She made her Olympic debut at Lillehammer in 1994 and her careers now spans 20 years.
“Obviously I’m thrilled to be part of a record (fifth Games) like that, but going to Vancouver hasn’t really hit me yet,” Cooper said from the aerials training camp at Lake Placid, USA.
“I have been totally focussed on training and jumping, on getting my body right and preparing for competition that I really haven’t had a lot of time to think about it.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, and that’s what I’m concentrating on. I can think about what it all means later. But yes, I’m delighted to be going to another Games.”
Despite winning multiple world championship medals and more world cups than any other aerial skier, the Olympics have not been a happy hunting ground for 37-year-old Cooper.
Her best result was 8th at Torino 2006 after setting the world record in qualifying. In 2002 she suffered a terrible injury in training and was unable to compete. She’s hoping for some luck at the Cypress Mountain venue, 30 minutes outside of downtown Vancouver.
“Weather permitting, I’ll do the jumps I always do in Olympic and World Cup competition - a triple twisting triple somersault and a double twisting triple,” Cooper explained.
The inspiring Victorian is not getting carried away by talk of podiums. She is focussed on leaving Vancouver knowing she nailed her jumps and the placing will take care of itself.
“I will be satisfied if I can put down four great technical landed jumps and come away with a good performance.”
Australia has qualified the maximum number of four jumpers with Bree Munro and Liz Gardner joining Cooper and Lassila on the team. Lassila’s selection comes off the back of two consecutive world cup wins and a world record combined score.
The big improver in the aerial team is Dave Morris who is obviously benefiting from his world class female training partners. In his first full world cup season, Morris achieved a top ten finish this month and will not be holding back on his Olympic debut.
“My goal is to do the best jumps that I can do on the day, give it everything and not to hold back,” Morris said.
“In aerials you can be tentative or go all out, I'm going to go all out because I'm not going to leave there wondering what could have happened. I want to land my jumps and I'll be able to walk away proudly.”
Morris is very excited to be selected for his first Olympic Team and to start seeing the benefits from years of hard work.
“This is an honour and a privilege, something I have wanted me whole life, and I will certainly make the most of every single moment.”
So what is he looking forward to most about his first Olympic Games?
“Honestly, walking into the stadium at the opening ceremony, I want to hear the roar of thousands of people and soak up the huge atmosphere. To walk in proudly representing a place that means most to me, my country!”
Alisa Camplin started Australia’s freestyle skiing medal charge at the Salt Lake Games in 2002 when she won the aerials. At Torino 2006 Camplin produced another amazing performance to win bronze and Dale Begg-Smith dominated the moguls for gold.
Conditions at Cypress Mountain will be challenging and in freestyle events there is an element of luck but you would expect there are enough arsenals in the freestyle skiing section to continue the medal trend.
Freestyle skiing section of the 2010 Australian Olympic Winter Team:
Jacqui Cooper (37), Melbourne, VIC - Aerial skiing
Liz Gardner (29), Melbourne, VIC - Aerial skiing
Lydia Lassila (28), Melbourne, VIC - Aerial skiing
Bree Munro (28), Melbourne, VIC - Aerial skiing
David Morris (25), Melbourne, VIC - Aerial skiing
Dale Begg-Smith (25), Vancouver, Canada - Moguls
* Ramone Cooper (21), Jindabyne, NSW - Moguls
* Jenny Owens (31), Sydney, NSW - Ski Cross
* Subject to a satisfactory medical assessment on or by 31 January 2010.
Note: Australia is on the list to be allocated an additional quota place in the disciplines of moguls and ski cross, by FIS under the quota reallocation process by 25 January 2010. If this occurs, Britteny Cox (Moguls), Katya Crema (Ski Cross) and Scott Kneller (Ski Cross) have been nominated as the athletes to be added to the Team.
Note: If Australia is allocated an additional quota place by FIS under the quota reallocation process or Ramone Cooper does not pass a medical assessment on or by 31 January 2010 Sam Hall has been nominated as the moguls athlete to be added to the Team.
Note: If either (a) being allocated two additional quota places by FIS under the quota reallocation process or (b) being allocated one additional quota place by FIS under the quota reallocation process and Ramone Cooper not passing a medical assessment on or by 31 January 2010, Matthew Graham has been nominated as the moguls athlete to be added to the Team.
Note: If Australia is allocated two additional quota places by FIS under the quota reallocation process Sami Kennedy has been nominated as the Ski Cross athlete to be added to the Team.