Olympic Winter Institute athletes exceed medal targets
OLYMPIC Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) athletes have had an impressive Northern Hemisphere winter, highlighted by a number of medal performances at the World Championships and World Cup level.
After the completion of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Australian sporting system underwent major change in a number of areas in response to the implementation of the Federal Government’s Australia’s Winning Edge (AWE) strategy and a new direction for Olympic sport.
Australia’s Winning Edge is a collaborative effort led by the Australian Sports Commission with key partners in the sport sector, detailing Australia’s game plan for moving from world class to world best.
Clear national performance targets have been set, with the aim for Australia to be a top 15 nation on the Olympic Winter Games medal tally, and to contribute to the target of 20 plus World Champions annually in both summer and winter Olympic sports.
The OWIA has made changes to its sport program mix in order to align with the new AWE strategy of the single measurement of high performance success is the number of medals achieved at a single annual ‘benchmark event’, most often being the World Championships in the years leading into the four year measurement at the Olympic Games.
The most significant changes include the ceasing of Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) scholarship programs, the creation of an OWIA ‘Pro Athlete Park & Pipe’ opportunity which supports Australia’s leading halfpipe and slopestyle athletes in their skiing and snowboard careers, and the decision to not continue the operation of a Skeleton sliding sports program for women.
OWIA athletes have responded well to the new sporting system and expectations against a predetermined medal forecast, exceeding the benchmark targets in year one of the new Olympic quadrennial.
In total 14 medals were won by OWIA athletes in World Cup and World Championship competition. Most encouragingly, a number of emerging athletes achieved first time international and podium success.
Laura Peel became Australia’s first sporting World Champion of 2015, when she won the gold medal in Kreischberg, Austria during January. Laura is the fourth Australian woman to win an aerial skiing World Championship title and follows in the footsteps of aerial skiing legends, Kirstie Marshall (1997), Jacqui Cooper (1999) and Alisa Camplin (2003).
Danielle Scott also had an outstanding season finishing the season ranked a team high third in the world. Danielle won two World Cup medals which included her first World Cup victory in Moscow, Russia.
Renee McElduff also won her first ever World Cup event, after taking gold in Lake Placid, NY, USA, during February.
During February, the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships
took place in Vail-Beaver Creek resort in the USA and Greta Small provided Australia’s highlight of the Championships when she finished 18th in the Combined event. Mogul Skiing Britt Cox secured World Championship bronze with the best performance of her career. By finishing third, the 20 year old became just the second Australian female World Championship mogul skiing medallist.
Matt Graham had a breakthrough season, finishing the season ranked fifth in the world after winning the first World Cup medals of his career. In total Matt won two silver medals and one bronze medal.
Park & Pipe
20 year old halfpipe snowboard athlete Scotty James secured his first major title, claiming a gold medal at the 2015 World Championships. Scotty declared his intentions in the final by putting down a highly impressive performance in his first run. It was this run of 91.50 points that the rest of the field were unable to equal.
Two time Olympic halfpipe medallist Torah Bright, finished in sixth place at the World Championships, after qualifying in third. The following week in Aspen USA, Torah had an impressive bronze medal performance at the Winter X-Games.
Slopestyle skier Russ Henshaw became a dual World
Championship medallist when he picked up the silver at the 2015 World Championships. Russ skied brilliantly throughout the event putting down three solid runs above 90 points and scoring just 0.8 of a point less than the gold medallist. Ski Cross Both Anton Grimus and Sami Kennedy-Sim recorded top-10 World Cup performances, after advancing to the semi-final stage in Arosa, Switzerland.
Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin finished the season ranked second in the world, the highest ranking by an Australian in 2014-2015. Chumpy’s second place ranking was achieved following back to back podiums, including one victory, in the final two races of the season.
Belle Brockhoff had a consistent and much improved season, advancing through to the semifinal stage or better in every event she contested. Belle was one place from the podium on two occasions, finishing fourth at both the X-Games in Aspen and in the final World Cup of the season in La Molina, Spain.
Jarryd Hughes was also close to landing on the podium for the second time in his career, finishing fourth in Veysonnaz, Switzerland, when teammate Alex Pullin won the event, the first time in history two Australian athletes have featured in the same Snowboard Cross final.
GOLD: Aerialist Laura Peel took out the top spot on the podium at Kreischberg, Austria in January.