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Team Australia Hospitality Thread

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Well, that penultimate day before the bitter sweet climax of the Games. Oh Vancouverites, I know it so too well.

But let's not get maudlin yet. I've still gotta fit one last act into the Roo Bar before our closing night ... the final in our trio of Snazzy Sheila Stars from the Sydney OC, from the stable of prodigies - along with Debbie Byrne and the other Minogue sister - spawned from that Pre-Australian Idol breeding pond, Young Talent Time,

Mesdames et Monsiers, La Belle Madamoiselle d'Australie ...

Tina Arena


And let's all have a Dogbolter! 3891.jpg

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I am very pleased by the two golds for Australia in Vancouver and I am hoping Oz will "shine" in Sochi, too

I know New Zealand isn't part of Australia, but I would like to add here, that I hope the Kiwi sports association becomes aware that they should support their winter sports athletes a little bit more and I hope they will built a Ski Jump and a Bob/Luge/skeleton track in Queenstown to bid for the youth Winter Olympics = which would be a great promotion for a later Kiwi bid for Olympic Winter Games!

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A great Article by The Australian's (and former colleague) Nicole Jeffrey, who along with Glenda Kaporaal, also of The Oz, I consider amongst our best Olympic journalists in the country:

How Australia joined the world's high flyers

Nicole Jeffery, in Vancouver

SOMEHOW Australia, the land of the long, hot summer, has become a world power in freestyle skiing.

After winning a gold medal at each of the past three Winter Olympics - Alisa Camplin in 2002, Dale Begg-Smith in 2006 and Lydia Lassila on Thursday - Australia is now the third-most successful country in the history of the sport - behind the US, with the might of its population, and Canada, with its huge natural resources.

So how did that happen? The world's traditional snow countries are astonished and, in some cases, horrified.

Finland can barely stand the embarrassment of trailing Australia (two gold, one silver) in the medal tally in Vancouver. France also has two gold medals and only scrapes ahead due to extra minor medals, and Russia has only one more gold medal, with three days of the Games remaining.

"Three medals - a lot of people are just baffled by that," Lassila confirmed after winning Australia's historic third medal at Cypress Mountain on Thursday.

Like many great successes, Australia's rise in freestyle skiing began with a crazy idea.

In the 1980s, moguls skier and instructor Geoff Lipshut was part of a group of freestyle skiing enthusiasts that called itself "Tribe Gonzo". The Mt Buller resort agreed to sponsor them and under the name "Team Buller". They attracted Kirstie Marshall, a former gymnast, who was encouraged to take up the infant sport of aerial skiing.

Marshall, now a Victorian politician, became the pioneer of Australia's aerials tradition, rising to become world champion in the new sport in the 1990s.

Lipshut, who was running Team Buller, watched Marshall advance from nowhere to world No 1 in three years because of her superior acrobatic skills and gymnastics background.

He realised that teaching gymnasts to ski was easier than teaching skiers to flip and twist. He met Jacqui Cooper, then a trampolinist, through an acquaintance, and the two later discovered former gymnast Camplin, when they set up a trampoline and harness for demonstrations at a ski show in Melbourne.

By the 1998 Olympics, Australia had two of the best female aerialists in the world in Marshall and Cooper but disaster struck at Nagano when both crashed in the qualifying round.

But they had done enough to convince the Australian Olympic Committee, flushed with confidence before the Sydney 2000 Games, that it was time for the country to get serious or get out of winter sports.

The AOC convinced the Australian Institute of Sport to partner it in the establishment of an Olympic Winter Institute and Lipshut was installed as its chief executive and evangelist.

He immediately went about formalising and expanding the program to transform talented acrobats into aerial skiers, scouring the Melbourne gymnastics clubs to find likely candidates.

Lassila, whose gymnastics career had been scuttled by a wrist injury, and Liz Gardner, her fellow Olympic finalist in Vancouver, were the first recruits. Leading international coaches were hired, including Peter Judge, who now heads the Canadian Freestyle Skiing Association, and Todd Ossian, who guided Camplin to gold.

Hiring great coaches and identifying the right athletes has been the key to its success.

It was the OWIA's decision to hire Judge and American moguls coach Steve Desovich that led Begg-Smith to choose Australia as his country after he split from the Canadian system as a teenager.

When Ossian departed after the 2004 Games and Camplin retired, the Australian aerials team turned to Swiss trainer Michel Roth, the most successful aerials coach in history. He has now coached an aerials gold medallist in five of the past six Games.

The Swiss federation agreed to share his services with Australia and he went about rebuilding Lassila after she had completed her rehabilitation from her second knee reconstruction surgery four years ago.

"He was instrumental in developing my plan," Lassila said.

"He's a unique coach, he has so much on his plate, he has a lot of athletes, and never once have I felt like I was shoved aside. He treats everyone equally and I felt like I was the only one on the team. He really is a calm, cool coach who brought the best out in me and he gets a lot of credit for this."

Success is also breeding success. Lassila (then Ierodiaconou) was a bright-eyed rookie at her first Games when she watched Camplin win gold. Begg-Smith is now mentoring a hugely-talented group of teenage moguls skiers, exemplified by Britteny Cox, 15, who made her Olympic debut in Vancouver.

Australia's Winter Olympic officials would love Lassila to continue for at least another couple of years so she can bring through the next generation, as Cooper and Camplin did with her.

"I certainly want to be part of it (the next Olympic campaign) in some way, but whether I am still jumping, I'm not sure. I'd love to be jumping and see these youngsters come up," she said.

Australian team chief Ian Chesterman said the next step was to develop more depth in the sport to ensure continued success. "We need three or four girls in the aerials so we have more chance of someone having their best day on the Olympic day, but I think we are in a very fortunate position to have Lydia and Dale, who is an absolutely perfect role model," he said.

"As long as you have someone at the top to help drag them through . . . I think we can develop new talent pretty quickly."

One of the keys will be funding for the development of Australian facilities - primarily a water ramp at the new outdoor pool to be built at Chandler Aquatic Centre in Brisbane, and an international-standard halfpipe at Perisher, where a site has been identified.

With a proper water ramp, Lipshut estimates Australia could develop 20 athletes a year and continue to compete with China, which has used the Australian model and its own gymnastics tradition to become the dominant force in the sport. "There's no stopping us now," Lassila said. "What we have done is amazing with the resources we have had."

The Australian

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Well, that brings us to the final night at the Roo Bar. What a great Games! And what a dream end for our hosts, Canada! Free drinks for all canucks tonight!

Thanks everyone who dropped in to help us cheer on The Boxing Roo! And a lot to cheer on as Australia celebrated our Best Ever Winter Games performance.

To see us out tonight, especially for Eusebius, how could we not have …

Not much left in the cellar, but I think we can just see ourselves out by polishing of a last few crates of: xxxx_bottles.jpg

The Bar is open till the last sleeping drunk gets hosed out. In the meantime, see you all in the tent in June in Durban when the mighty Socceroos attempt to twig the tail of Der Mannschaft!!

And, of course look forward to seeking shelter from the rain in London 2012!

Anyway, I’m off literally within hours of the closing ceremony to take the first M*A*S*H chopper available from the Olympic battle zone for some R&R in Tokyo for a week. I’ll look in from the land of the Rising Sun when I get a chance.


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