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The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) was established in 1981, partly to improve performance after Australia's disappointing results at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, but chiefly to take a more national approach to training Australia's elite athletes. In 2006, it celebrated 25 years as the cradle of Australia's national sports system - a system that is recognised the world over for its ability to identify, develop and produce champions.

In 1981, there were 152 AIS scholarship holders. In 2008, there are around 700 athletes on scholarship in 35 separate programs across 26 sports, supported by 75 coaches.

It is no coincidence that the rise in Australia's sporting fortunes over the past 27 years has paralleled the maturing of the AIS.

At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the first following the opening of the AIS, Australia won four gold, eight silver and 12 bronze medals for a total of fourteenth place overall. At the Athens 2004 Olympics, Australia won 49 medals and came fourth in the medal tally behind the United States, China and Russian Federation. Current and former AIS scholarship holders made up more than half of the team, winning 32 medals (ten gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze). At the Athens Paralympics, Australian won 100 medals with the current and former AIS scholarship holders making up approximately a third of the team and winning 63 medals (13 gold, 27 silver and 23 bronze).

AIS results at the Commonwealth Games have been equally spectacular. At the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, AIS athletes bundled 110 of 221 medals for Australia demonstrating the importance of the AIS within Australian sport.

At the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, 168 current and former AIS athletes accounted for 44 gold, 23 silver and 33 bronze medals from a total of 206 Australian team medals.

The influence of the AIS on the broader sporting landscape extends well beyond Olympic and Commonwealth sports. Today, AIS scholarship holders contribute significant numbers to many of Australia's national teams, such as rugby union's Wallabies and our One Day and Test cricket squads.

What we have here in Australia is a sports system that works - and the AIS is recognised as being at the top of the pile. Thanks to ongoing and significant Australian Government funding, and the support of corporate Australia, the AIS has indeed cemented its place as one of the world's great elite sports training centres.

Its success stands as an ongoing legacy of which all Australians can be proud.

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