Saturday, August 15, 2009
Winter Olympians at Perisher!
National and international athletes have descended upon Perisher, the Southern Hemisphere's largest ski resort, to compete in the Australian Moguls Championships and to polish their Skier and Boarder-Cross skills in a bid for a 2010 Olympic gold medal.
Teams from South Africa, Korea, Japan, USA, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Great Britain, Spain, China and even Greece have been spotted out on the slopes participating in a gruelling training regime, as they strive to reach the highest plateaus of their sport.
Here's a brief look at the world-class athletes currently training at Perisher in Freestyle Mogul, Skier-Cross and Boarder-Cross disciplines:
Freestyle Mogul Skiing
On Sunday 20 August, 52 of the world's best freestyle mogul skiers from Australia and overseas will battle it out on Toppa's Dream in the hope of snaring the title of Australian Mogul Champion and to earn FIS points for Olympic selection.
Toppa's Dream, located beside the Ridge Quad Chair on Blue Cow Mountain, is a favourite amongst both national and international mogul sensations. "It has been rated one of the best mogul courses in the world by all freestyle nations, in fact it is considered to be one of the top three most challenging mogul courses in the world," said Peter Topalovic, Australian Winter Olympic Freestyle Mogul Assistant Coach.
Back to defend their titles are: Aiko Umera (Japan), the current 2009 Women's World and 2008 Australian Mogul Champion, and, Osamu Ueno (Japan), the 2008 Men's Australian Mogul Champion. Nipping at their heels is international freestyle mogul skiing super star Patrick Deneen (USA), the 2009 Men's World Mogul Champion. Australian hopefuls, and prospective Australian Olympic team members, Ramon Cooper and Sam Hall are also lining up to give the current champs a run for their money.
Australia's Emma Chapman-Davies, who placed equal first with Aiko at the 2008 Australian Mogul Championships and 2006 Olympic Gold Medallist Dale Begg-Smith are recovering from knee surgery and will not be competing in this event. Both athletes however, have their sights firmly set on the 2010 Olympics. All four Australians are expected to qualify for the Australian Team heading to the Vancouver games.
Perisher has put a huge amount of effort and time into producing a world class skier-cross and boarder-cross course, complete with a "woo-tang" feature (two mini halfpipes built back-to-back, which form a "W"), critical rollers, burms, jumps and even an Olympic style start gate, to replicate sections of the course in Vancouver.
Representatives from the Swedish and Australian skier-cross teams are currently training on the course. Swedish team members Magda Iljan (three-times Winter X-Games medallist, 2007 gold medallist) and Eric Iljan will be training in the resort from 15 to 18 August. Australian 2002 Alpine Skiing Olympian Jenny Owens, a close friend of Magda's from the Winter X- Games and World Cup Circuits, has also been spotted fine-tuning her technique; she is a serious contender for a medal in the 2010 Olympic Games.
Matt Lyons, Head Skier-Cross Coach at the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) said, "Perisher's facilities are favoured by Olympic athletes because of the fantastic terrain on offer, great resort support and the immense time and effort they have put into building a world class ski-cross and boarder-cross track."
The technical boarder-cross course at Perisher has great features suitable for training athletes in the lead up to the 2010 Olympics.
Two international boarder-cross teams are currently taking advantage of the course including: the Canadian team, comprising of six athletes including Maelle Ricker and Rob Fagan who have both been on the podium at World Cup and World Champion event, and the Czechoslovakia team, including World Cup winner Michael Novotne.
Australian boarder-cross athletes Damon Hayler and Alex Pullin have also been training on the course. Damon who won a World Cup event in 2009 and Alex who sneered a podium placement at the La Molina World Cup, are both on track for a 2010 Olympic medal.
Ben Wordsworth, Head Snowboard Coach at the OWIA said, "It is advantageous for international teams to train at Perisher as it has one of the closest start sections to the Cypress Venue at the Olympic Winter Games."