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The Rio dream ignited by legends

19 November 2014

RIO2016: There was a buzz in the air, a steely determination and plenty of laughs at Sydney Olympic Park on Wednesday night, as 100 athletes from nine sports gathered to officially begin a journey that could take them all the way to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

With 624 days until the Opening Ceremony, the first session of the Australia-wide Road to Rio IGNITE series was a big hit with aspiring Olympians and those who have recently worn the green and gold.

They were an audience with a voice, learning from legends, as Sandra Morgan Beavis (swimming gold medallist, Melbourne 1956), Malcolm Page (sailing gold medallist Beijing 2008, London 2012) and Sydney 2000 champions Kerri Pottharst (beach volleyball) and Deb Watson (water polo) who shared secrets to their success and advice from their often long and challenging journies.

IGNITE is a new initiative of the Australian Olympic Committee which educates athletes on Australia’s proud Olympic history, allows athletes to ask questions of champions and informs them on the latest information from the bustling city of Rio de Janeiro. And most importantly it aims to motivate athletes to push through boundaries everyday in training and #IGNITEtheDream.

Legendary Olympic coach and Team Motivator Laurie Lawrence had the room hanging on his every word.  

“Come with us to Rio. It is just going to be so good! And you’ll be part of the Australian Team and you’ll have memories that will live with your forever,” Lawrence said.

"This is the start and you’ve been chosen to come here because you can be there. But if you think you’re going to get there dreaming about it, then dream on! Even these fellas that are world champions (pointing to Matt Belcher and Will Ryan) are going to have to work extremely hard or they won’t get there. That’s how serious it is.”

Lawrence receipted his poem on 400m champion, ‘Catherine the Great’ and cheered her home over the final stages of the unforgettable race from Sydney 2000. He told hilarious stories of his efforts to get Australian athletes in to cheer on their teammates at past Games. The message was clear. 

“The Olympics can be so much fun but you have to pay the price and work hard now, and then once you have finished competing with no regrets, support each other as a Team”.

Morgan Beavis who was just 14 years and six months when she won relay gold at Melbourne 1956 spoke of how words from Marjorie Jackson when she was 13 lifted her to achieve the accolade of selection and then to become Australia’s youngest gold medallist.

“Keep yourself very grounded and don’t think you are better than you are,” Morgan Beavis said. “Read about other athletes and know about the other sports that make up your Team.

“Being part of the Olympic family is something that will stay with you forever. And it should be something that you treasure.”

The session opened communication between individuals from all sports and began them thinking like ’One Team’. 

Rugby Sevens will make its Olympic debut at Rio 2016, so it was perfect for the Australian men’s and women’s squads to be present at the first IGNITE session for their first Olympic-style experience. All players were looking to learn from other athletes training for Rio, ask advice from some of Australia’s most successful Olympians and the opportunity for photos and autographs was not missed.

Sydney Olympian and Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller gave athletes updates from her recent visit to Rio accompanied by the latest imagery. Chiller said,”There have only been around 3,500 Australian Olympians ever! This shows how special being an Olympian is and why Olympians are so special to this country. It is a great honour and a lot of responsibility that goes with it.”

Chiller assured the Rio hopefuls that the city will be ready and that a sports loving nation of fans awaits.

“Brazilians are a sports loving nature, there is a lot of sports they don’t know about but they are keen to learn and they are passionate about it.

“They will be rowdy, enthusiastic and wearing green and gold so you can pretend they are there cheering for you.”

Chiller feels the climate and beaches makes Rio feel like Australia in a way that could be an advantage over other nations for the 2016 Australian Olympic Team.

Sydney 2000 sprint sensation, and now media professional, Matt Shirvington was a fantastic MC for the session, sharing his valuable learning of dealing with the pressure of the Olympics.

The session finished with athletes mingling at the Team BBQ and signing a huge sign that will await them in the Athletes' Village in August 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

The first IGNITE session in Sydney was a celebration of what it means to be an Australian Olympian and a reminder about the personal experience that will come with being part of the 2016 Australian Olympic Team at the first Games in South America.

For future session details and for more information>>

Also follow the @AUSOlympicTeam social media channels for #IGNITEtheDream

Andrew Reid


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