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  • Australian Olympic Committee: Big bucks boost winter athlete's chances


    Australia’s winter athletes have received a financial boost towards their quest for an Olympic medal at the Vancouver Winter Games.

    Ten aspiring winter Olympians will each receive US$29,000 (AUD$45,000) having been awarded the 2010 Vancouver Scholarship.

    “This is the first time Australian athletes have received such funding and we are confident the scholarships will assist them in their preparation,” AOC Director of Sport Fiona de Jong said.

    The scholarships are designed to assist athletes with the cost of coaching and training programs as well as the cost of travel for Olympic qualification.

    Olympic gold medallist Dale Begg-Smith, four time Olympian Jacqui Cooper and World Cup champion Lydia Lassila are just three of the ten Australian athletes who will benefit from the funding.

    For Cooper and Lassila the more time they can get to convert their triple twisting somersaults from water jump training onto snow the greater chance they have for consistency and medals in Vancouver.

    “Wherever there is snow we really need to go to maximise our chances,” Lassila said.

    “Travelling from water jump training in Switzerland back to set up jumps in Mt Buller (Victoria) if the weather is right, and then back overseas to other training bases is really expensive but essential.

    "This money will make a big difference to myself and benefit the other athletes in our programs.”

    The Chinese team are the main force in women’s aerials and each year they are able to spend many more weeks transferring their water training to snow.

    The scholarships are each made up of a fixed monthly grant of US$1,500 from November 2008 to February 2010 for training programs and a fixed subsidy of US$5,000 for travel.

    “This will make the year so much better financially,” skeleton athlete and Torino 2006 Winter Olympian Michelle Steele said.

    “Being a full time athlete this is a huge assistance.”

    “Leading into the Olympics, I won’t have to work full time, which was the original plan. Training and working full time is very difficult and creates a lot of pressure.

    “The scholarship will ease that pressure, funding my training, travel and living expenses,” Steele said.

    The AOC in conjunction with the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) and National Federations nominated a maximum of 10 athletes for the scholarships.

    “The OWIA and the National Federations identified athletes eligible for the scholarships based on the criteria set by Olympic Solidarity,” de Jong said.

    “The athletes had to have the intent to qualify for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games as well as a proven winter sports record and technical level.”

    The scholarships are funded by Olympic Solidarity, the department of the International Olympic Committee responsible for managing and administering the share of television rights from the Olympic Games to National Olympic Committees.

    Vancouver 2010 Scholarship Holders:
    1. Lydia LASSILA
    2. Jenny OWENS
    3. Torah BRIGHT
    4. Alex PULLIN
    5. Michelle STEELE
    6. Hannah CAMPBELL-PEGG
    7. Ben SIM
    8. Jono BRAUER
    9. Dale BEGG-SMITH
    10. Jacqui COOPER

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