WIN­TER WON­DER­LAND

We may not be world fa­mous when it comes to Olympic ski­ing and skat­ing but Gi­aan Rooney says the Aussies shouldn’t be counted out. Guy Davis spoke to the cham­pion swim­mer cov­er­ing the Win­ter Olympics for Nine.

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journos such as Ed­die McGuire and Ken Sut­cliff e, for­mer sport­ing stars in­clud­ing Grant Hack­ett and Win­ter Olympic gold medal­list Alisa Cam­plin and co­me­di­ans such as Mick Mol­loy.

She’s head­ing over a lit­tle early, though, so she can fi le a few sto­ries that will give view­ers an in­sight into the win­ter won­der­land that is Van­cou­ver and the sur­round­ing area – lo­ca­tions such as Vic­to­ria Is­land, Grouse Moun­tain and the ski-re­sort town of Whistler.

“ It means I’ll get to have a bit of a look around as well, which is lovely,” Rooney said.

Af­ter her sight­see­ing – sorry, re­port­ing – wraps up, it’s down to Olympic busi­ness, with Rooney fo­cus­ing on events in­clud­ing fi gure skat­ing, curl­ing ( it’s a lit­tle like ice hockey but it in­volves brooms and a big, smooth stone) and ski cross ( a new event that’s not un­like mo­tocross on snow).

Now, Aus­tralian view­ers may be un­fa­mil­iar with a fair few of th­ese Win­ter Olympic events and un­able to name too many of the ath­letes tak­ing part in them.

But even though Aus­tralia isn’t world renowned for its prow­ess in win­ter sports, Rooney says that we’re ac­tu­ally punch­ing well above our weight.

“ We have very av­er­age snow com­pared to some other parts of the world, es­pe­cially the north­ern hemi­sphere, but in terms of com­pe­ti­tion on the world stage we’ve done pretty well,” she said.

“ Four years ago, we came away from the Win­ter Olympics in Turin with one gold and one bronze, and I’m confi dent we’ll top that this time. We’ve got quite a few medal chances this year. So that’s what I love about Aussies: we’re so com­pet­i­tive that we’ll have a red-hot crack at any sport!”

In fact, ac­cord­ing to Rooney, Aus­tralia has a long, proud tra­di­tion of suc­cess when it comes to women’s aerial events, and it’s an area where we should shine in Van­cou­ver.

Freestyle aerial skier Jac­qui Cooper is tak­ing part in her fi fth Win­ter Olympics, mak­ing her the fi rst Aus­tralian woman to be part of fi ve Olympic teams, win­ter or sum­mer, and Ly­dia Las­sila is in the midst of a blaz­ing come­back fol­low­ing a bad run with in­juries.

“ Ly­dia is com­ing off a great World Cup se­ries,” Rooney said. “ She’s got a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence, and I think she’s our gold-medal favourite among the women.”

Freestyle moguls skier Dale Begg-Smith, looking to re­peat his Turin gold-medal per­for­mance, and half-pipe snow­boarder To­rah Bright are also on Rooney’s radar.

“ Dale also has a great World Cup se­ries be­hind him, and I know To­rah wasn’t very happy about com­ing in fi fth in Turin four years ago, so she’s out for re­venge!

“ Through­out the squad we have peo­ple who are placed in the top 10 in the world, so there could be a few sur­prises.”

What’s not sur­pris­ing, Rooney said, is that th­ese ath­letes share the same drive and determination as those in more high-profi le events.

“ They’re very sim­i­lar in how they’re so proud to be rep­re­sent­ing their coun­try,” she said.

“ And they ac­tu­ally love the fact that Aus­tralia isn’t re­ally rated or men­tioned in the same breath as their north­ern hemi­sphere coun­ter­parts when talk of the Win­ter Olympics comes up I think they like to take that on board and prove the rest of the world wrong with their skill and tal­ent and drive.”

Cold cover: Gi­aan Roone Rooney,

with fel­low Olymp Olympics pre­sen­ters Steven Brad­bury Bradbu ( inset left), Alisa Camp Cam­plin

and Grant Hacke Hack­ett.

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