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A podium view

As we commence the new Summer Olympic and Paralympic cycle towards Tokyo 2020, I would like to acknowledge the effort and commitment of the sector over the past four years.

No athlete does it alone and, in celebrating the triumphs of our athletes, we also recognise the contribution of coaches, support staff, administrators, family members and friends on those sporting journeys.

There were many great moments and remarkable performances during the Rio cycle, culminating in the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic  Games.

Who can forget the challenge faced by Kim Brennan in the heats of the single scull, where she almost came out of the boat, only to go on and ultimately triumph in the final by more than a boat length.

Chloe Esposito ripped through the field in the final stages of the Modern Pentathlon, to claim gold, while sailor Tom Burton’s comeback victory was equally impressive. Catherine Skinner maintained her composure to win gold in the trap shooting, while the women’s 4x100m swimming team defended their Olympic title. The Aussie Women’s Rugby Seven’s Team also made history, winning the sport’s inaugural Olympic gold medal.

The  Australian  Paralympic  Team  truly  delivered  against  expectations  in  Rio,  maintaining  a  top- five position for the sixth consecutive Games - since Atlanta 1996. Australians were inspired by   the journey of Curtis McGrath, who overcame life-changing injuries he’s suffered during service in Afghanistan to win gold in the Canoe KL2 event. Dylan Alcott claimed two gold medals in 24 hours, winning both the singles and doubles Wheelchair Tennis events. The Aussie Steelers wheelchair rugby team delivered back–to-back Paralympic gold  medals.

These are but a few of the stories from the last four years to celebrate. Australia’s final medal tally at the Rio Olympics did not match international forecasts, but there were some promising signs for the future. The Australian team:

  • Increased the number of sports that won medals from the previous Games
  • Increased the number of athletes who finished 4th to 8th place
  • Arrested a slide in gold medals, matching the eight golds achieved in London 2012.  
Olympic results since 2000: Year 2000 16 gold, 25 silver, 17 bronze; 2004 and number of sports with medals

Preparations are now well underway for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and we cannot wait for 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in our own back yard.

Looking ahead

Australia’s winter athletes continued their strong form by claiming five medals at the 2017 World Championships. This performance equalled Australia’s best medal haul in 2011, although the medals were won across a greater spread of sports. Australia’s medal winners included: Britt Cox (gold, moguls); Scott James (gold, half-pipe); Danielle Scott (silver, aerials); David Morris (bronze, aerials) and Alex Pullin (bronze, snowboard cross).

Britt Cox became the first Australian to capture a world championship in the Olympic format moguls   and also claimed the overall World Cup series title. Scott James defended his 2013 world championship title, only the second Australian to become a two-time winter sport world champion. Scott also won    his respective overall World Cup series title.

Prior to the 2017 World Championships, Australian athletes had won a total of 34 medals, including 16 gold across the 2016–17 World Cup events. So at the conclusion of the 2016–17 winter international season, Australia had won 39 medals – the most world medals won by Australian athletes in one year. It compares well against the results achieved in the 2012–13 pre-Olympic year before the Sochi Winter Olympics, when Australian athletes won a total of 25 medals, including four World Championship medals.

Australia’s Paralympic winter athletes also performed well in 2017. At the 2017 World Championships Mitchell Gourley won gold in the men’s standing super-combined and Joany Badenhorst two bronze medals in the women’s standing snowboard cross and banked slalom. Triple world champion in 2015, Melissa Perrine and guide Andrew Bor, did not compete due to Melissa’s university commitments, instead competing at the World Cup Final and Paralympic Games test event in PyeongChang. At that event they won two silver and three gold medals. Significantly, they won medals in all four alpine disciplines: slalom, giant slalom, super G and downhill.

Melissa Perrine and Mitchell Gourley both won the overall World Cup series titles in their respective events.

At the conclusion of the 2016–17 international season three athletes have emerged as strong medal prospects for PyeongChang 2018: Melissa Perrine (with guide Andrew Bor) and Mitchell Gourley in Alpine Skiing and Joany Badenhorst in Snowboard Cross.

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in particular offer a wonderful opportunity for Australian athletes and sports to showcase themselves at home. The close working relationship between the AIS and Commonwealth Games Australia will ensure the Australian athletes and sports are well supported at the Gold Coast.

As one Olympic cycle concludes, another commences. Australia is now fully immersed in the next preparation phase towards Tokyo in 2020. The biggest responsibility for the AIS and the Australian high performance sector is to ensure our resources are aligned with delivering podium success.

There is a genuine commitment to continuous improvements across the sector and the journey to Tokyo is well underway.

Matt Favier
Director AIS

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