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Sir Rols

Oz Gold Medallists Honoured

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I tried to re-open the Vancouver Roo Bar, but the thread was locked. Anyway, in the interests of assuring the Canadians here that we haven't forgotten your games Down Under, here's a bit of Aussie aftermath.

Lydia Lassila wins Don award

Winter Olympics gold medallist Lydia Lassila won the prestigious Don award on Wednesday night for the Australian sporting performance of the year.

There was a strong winter Olympics theme at the annual Sports Australia Hall Of Fame annual awards night, with fellow aerial skiier Kirstie Marshall among nine inductees into the body.

Snowboarder Torah Bright, who also won gold earlier this year in Vancouver, was another nominee for the Don.

Lassila, 28, became the second Australian after Alisa Camplin in 2002 to win an Olympic gold medal in women's freestyle aerial skiing.

Wheelchair marathoner Kurt Fearnley, Formula One driver Mark Webber, world snooker champion Neil Robertson, three-time defending world surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore and Commonwealth Games stars Sally Pearson (track and field) and Geoff Huegill (swimming) were the other nominees for the Don.

The award recognises the person who has most inspired the nation with their sporting performance during the year.

It is named after cricketing legend Sir Donald Bradman, the first inductee into the Hall.

Lassila overcame a succession of injury problems, including two knee reconstructions, to triumph this year at the Olympics.

One of her knee blowouts happened at the 2006 winter Games.

She is the third winter Olympian to win the Don, following Camplin and Steve Bradbury in 2002.

"It was an amazing experience, an amazing Olympics," Lassila said as she accepted her award.

"When I won, it just erased everything that happened four years earlier in Torino, it erased all the surgery, erased all the rehab and the difficult times."

...

SMH

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I can certainly appreciate and applaud Lassila's award, and considering her achievements building up to her gold in Vancouver as well as the career-threatening injuries she has suffered no one could deny she has form on the board for a big recognition. Having said that it does seem a little premature to see her get the nod ahead of Mark 'The DNF Specialist' Webber who is poised to claim our first GP championship since 1980 assuming the results go his way in the last 3 races of the season. Plus Kurt Fearnley is a one in a million kind of paralympian...not only a great sportsman but his efforts in trekking the Kokoda Track on his hands was simply amazing.

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And even if she never did crack gold, a fond farewell to one of Oz's pioneer freestyle skiers - not to mention one of the winter teams most popular members. Thanks Jacqui!

Pioneer Cooper bows out with most honours

Jaccooperhomepage.jpg

AT 37, Australia's most enduring Winter Olympian, Jacqui Cooper, is expected to announce her retirement today.

The boundlessly enthusiastic Cooper, who holds the record for World Cup victories and blazed the trail for female aerial skiers to perform triple somersaults, has finally recognised that even she has a limit in a sport that takes a brutal physical toll on its exponents.

The one accolade that has eluded her in a decorated career that includes five World Cup crowns and and a world title, has been an Olympic medal.

This year she became the first Australian woman to win selection for five Olympic Games, but sport's premier event has only ever offered her heartbreak.

Cooper never quite had the timing right at the Games and had to watch as younger teammates Alisa Camplin (2002) and Lydia Lassila (2010) soared past her to gold medals.

But her pioneering feats, and those of Kirstie Marshall before her, laid a foundation for aerial skiing to become Australia's most successful winter sport.

Cooper was a teenage trampolinist before Australian Winter Olympic Institute boss Geoff Lipshut recruited her to his fledgling program in 1989.

She made her Olympic debut in 1994 in Lillehammer and won her first World Cup event leading into the Nagano Olympics four years later, where she was concussed in competition.

She was the dominant performer going into Salt Lake City in 2002, but wrecked her knee in a devastating training accident just days before the Games began.

It took her almost four years to return to the top, and she set a world record score during Olympic qualifying in Turin.

However she could not reproduce that form in tricky conditions in the final, where she finished eighth.

By this year's Vancouver Games, Cooper's once ground-breaking triple somersaults had become the standard trick for the leading competitors, and she no longer had the ammunition to triumph against Lassila and the new generation of Chinese skiers. She finished fifth.

However Lassila paid tribute to the inspiration provided by her teammate.

"She needs to get the medal of honour for perseverance," Lassila said.

The Australian

Edited by Sir Rols

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I agree, Rols. 2002 was her best shot of actually being Australia's first winter Olympic gold medalist. But Bradbury somehow luckily beat her to it. And Cooper's subsequent injury days later during her practice run at Salt Lake City of course opened the door for Alisa Camplin to golden glory. She deserved a better Olympic fate than she did. She was leading into the final round in Torino until the conditions worked in her disfavor.

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