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Queensland athletes pumped and informed for Rio

8 December 2015

ASPIRE: It’s unusual to have a group of people in a theatrette hanging off every word, yet that was the case at Bond University on the Gold Coast on Tuesday.

The subject was the Rio Olympic Games, the class were 60 Rio hopefuls and success will mean Rio 2016 selection and a united Australian Olympic Team that Australian fans are proud of.

The Olympic Games evoke passion and emotion from athletes, as much as sports fans, and that was on show today. Every Olympic Games has its own unique qualities the Australian Olympic Committee is working hard to ensure the athletes are ready for the challenging environment of Rio.

This was the second of nine Road to Rio ASPIRE sessions held around the country until April, with athletes from archery, beach volleyball, canoe/kayak, cycling (BMX and road), gymnastic, sailing, triathlon and weightlifting in attendance.

As well as briefing sessions there was the excitement of measurements for uniforms, photos for accreditation, data for bios, filming with the AOC and Olympic broadcaster Channel Seven, fun content for @AUSOlympicTeam social channels and the chance to chat and make new friends with athletes from different sports.

Athletes ranged from Olympic champions Mathew Belcher and Ken Wallace through to rookies chasing the Olympic dream.

Wallace is on his third Olympic campaign and is as motivated as ever.

“The ASPIRE session today was great,” Wallace said.

“It’s an insight into what to expect in Rio, the logistics, what’s going to happen there and an important few factors like immunisations, anti-doping and even down to the basic stuff like always using bottled water when cleaning your teeth.”

Athletes were able to ask questions of MC Natalie Cook, Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller, Belcher and AOC staff.

On show was the latest vision from Rio, inspiring moments from recent Games and also an emotional reflection on what the Moscow 1980 Team went through to maintain the continual representation that will be 120 years in 2016.

“The really inspiring part was watching the Moscow 1980 video and when you hear the story of the 1980 Olympics and the Australian Team there it makes you feel part of the bigger circle, and the bigger wheel of being part of that Team again and of One Team.”

Young BMX star Bodi Turner who is chasing his first Olympic Team had the reaction that the Australian Olympic Committee has been working towards.

"We have so many gold medallists and Olympic participants here to inspire us and pump us up and it definitely gets me going.”

Turner was in Rio earlier this year for the Test Event and described the locals as, “passionate and happy people”.

The biggest man in the room was heavyweight lifter Damon Kelly. The veteran has been to many pre-Games sessions before but invaluable for his preparation.

“It was a fantastic session,” dual Olympian Kelly said.

“It was great to come along and see Kitty and Nat talk about Rio, the processes in place for the Australian Team to perform at their best and the progression of the Olympic Village.

“Watching a few of the videos of previous Olympic performances gets the hairs on the back of the neck standing up and makes you focus on doing everything you can to make the Olympic Team.

London 2012 synchronised swimming athlete Bianca Hammett also relished hearing Olympic stories and watching the highlights footage.

“I know you see it as it happens every four years but it is great to see it in packages like that. It’s so inspiring,” Hammett said.

“To be able to meet other Olympians is great. Nat Cook is very inspirational and so full of energy – she is great at all of these different things.”

The key messages delivered by all the presenters were; leave no stone unturned, Rio will be a challenging environment so you need to be prepared and use common sense, the best party you’ll ever have will be after the Games if you perform, Australians want their heroes to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat, have a social media plan that does not derail performance and all content must align with the Team values.

Belcher, the Olympic Sailing Champion in the 470 class, was selected for the Rio Team last week and will be heading back to Brazil in a few days for the fifth time with crew Will Ryan as part of the title defence.

“First time I went to Rio I got a bit of a shock,” Belcher explained. “

“It can be difficult and you need to really be careful to make sure you have everything in place to stop you getting sick. It is really just common sense for your health and well-being.”

Belcher has the accolade at Bond University of taking nine years to finish his first degree, due to his amazing achievements on the water.

As university marking goes for these dedicated athletes. Selection would be an outstanding Pass, a Credit will be a life best experience (a key goal of the AOC), a Distinction will be a personal best and life best experience and a High Distinction will be standing on a podium as the ultimate reward for years of training and commitment.

Andrew Reid

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