Scotty James dominates X Games with tenth straight win

Submitted by admin on Fri, 01/24/2020 - 15:29
Hero Image
Title
Scotty James X Games 2020 - OWIA
Article Introduction

Scotty James has extended his amazing win streak to ten events, with the Australian halfpipe rider defending his X-Games title in Aspen, Colorado, USA.

Content

The 25-year-old snowboarder from Warrandyte, Melbourne, led from start to finish in the jam format to claim his third career gold medal and celebrate with a victory lap ahead of his final run. 

Behind James on the podium was Japanese rider Yuto Totsuka in second, with Jan Scherrer from Switzerland in third.

“I knew everyone was going to come out tonight and go for it”, James said in the finish area seconds after finishing his run.

“The variety tonight was really cool, and it definitely tested me.”
 


 

“In snowboarding we typically have one run in mind that we want to do, and tonight tested us all a little bit, we dropped from different sides, had different runs and really channeled that inner snowboarder from back in the day, so it’s been very cool tonight.”

“Aspen is always an insane event to ride and X-Games always makes it really cool for us.”

James is Australia’s most successful male snowboarder to date.

The three-time World Champion won an Olympic bronze medal at PyeongChang in 2018, has a collection of X Games medals (3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze) and nine FIS World Cup medals (6 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze). 

James also became the second most successful halfpipe rider in X Games history behind 2018 Olympic Champion Shawn White.

OWIA

Kookaburras and Hockeyroos ready for FIH Pro League domination

Submitted by admin on Fri, 01/24/2020 - 14:08
Hero Image
Title
Kookaburras header
Article Introduction

The Kookaburras and Hockeyroos have finalised preparations on the eve of tomorrow’s opening FIH Pro League doubleheader against Belgium, announcing their squads.

Content

Both teams are in for a big year leading into Tokyo 2020 and the FIH Pro League is the perfect place for them to kick it off right, with the Kookaburras out to defend their title and Hockeyroos looking to improve on their impressive second-place finish last year.

“This year is a huge one and while the focus is ensuring we peak for Tokyo in July, it is important that we start our Pro League season in a positive way,” Hockeyroos Head Coach Paul Gaudoin said.

“There are a few girls who are carrying some sore spots and minor injury niggles who will remain in Perth, but for the 21 players who are travelling to Sydney, it is a chance for them to put their best foot forward as we continue to work on the style and way we want to play.”


“The players have been training well and are really looking forward to playing in front of big home crowds in Sydney and starting the year on the right note.”

For the Kookaburras, who are the defending FIH Pro League Champions, they face their 2019 grand final opponents and world number two ranked Belgium in a genuine first up blockbuster.

The two teams have developed a fierce rivalry with the intriguing next chapter to unfold as they compete on back-to-back days.

“We have had a solid block of training since the players returned after the Christmas break and have been gradually building up towards taking on Belgium this weekend,” Kookaburras Head Coach Colin Batch said.

“This is a great opportunity to have the full squad in Sydney, get some solid training under our belt and face two excellent opponents first up.”

“I know the players are really excited about competing in the Pro League again and we probably could not ask for a better opening to the competition than by playing in front of a parochial home crowd against the team that pushed us all the way last year.”

On the women’s side, Belgium proved a bogey side for the Hockeyroos last year as the Europeans won both of their Pro League encounters, before the Hockeyroos went on to finish runners-up to the Netherlands in a thrilling grand final of the inaugural edition of the competition.

The consecutive doubleheaders against Belgium on 25/26 January will be followed by back-to-back doubleheaders against Great Britain, again at Sydney Olympic Park.

Great Britain’s women’s team are the reigning Olympic gold medallists, while the men’s team is full of talent and can upset any team on their day.

In support of the current bushfire crisis, Hockey Australia is encouraging all patrons who attend the Sydney matches to make a gold coin donation upon entry with all proceeds going to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal.

Hockey Australia and its corporate partners have also pledged to donate $500 to the Red Cross for every goal the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos score against Belgium and Great Britain.

The FIH Pro League is ‘hockey at it’s best’ and the next two weekends at Sydney Olympic Park are certain to be testament of that.

Furthermore, the men’s FIH Pro League trophy, which the Kookaburras won last year, will be in Sydney this week as it undertakes a global tour to all of the competing nations.

Tickets for the matches are available now through Ticketek.

Hockey Australia

Tess Coady wins Australia's first ever snowboard slopestyle gold

Submitted by admin on Fri, 01/24/2020 - 10:33
Hero Image
Title
Tess Coady Podium - Seiseralm Italy
Article Introduction

Tess Coady has completed an amazing comeback from injury, claiming Australia’s first-ever World Cup slopestyle gold medal in Seiser Alm, Italy. 

Content

The 19-year-old from Melbourne qualified in third place, and in finals stomped a run that saw her do switch bluntslide to regular on the waterfall rail, a perfect skate-style backside lipslide on the down rail out of the butterbox, and a 50-50 backside 180 melon out on the flat rail.
 


Through the jump line Coady was especially clean, with a switch backside 540, a huge backside 720, and a corked frontside 720 on the final jump to earn a score of 73.48 that would withstand all challengers to come.

“I’m so hyped,” Coady smiled from the finish area before the awards ceremony. 

“It’s my first slopestyle back since the (PyeongChang 2018) Olympics, where I injured my knee, and I was expecting to come out here and just get some experience doing slopestyle and competing again because it’s been such a long time. I was not expecting to win. It’s amazing.

“I have so much respect for every person that’s gone through a knee injury. It’s such a long process. I had it in my mind that it would be like a year of rehab and I’d be back snowboarding, but the reality for me was that it takes about two years to get back.

"There’s a lot of hurdles to get over. But I’m so happy I was able to persist through it all and I’m stoked to be back.”
 


Coady now has two World Cup medals, with her first podium coming in January 2018 at Snowmass, CO, USA, where she placed third. 

Also on the podium was Katie Ormerod from Great Britain in second place, and Canadian Brooke Voigt in third. 

The next World Cup slopestyle event will take place in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, on the 21st of March, the venue where Coady won double gold in slopestyle and big air at the World Junior Championships in 2017.  

Find the full FIS World Cup Women’s Slopestyle results  HERE

OWIA

Primary Tag

Aussies match it with world's best at Lausanne 2020

Submitted by admin on Thu, 01/23/2020 - 20:58
Hero Image
Title
Team Australia ahead of the Lausanne 2020 Closing Ceremony
Article Introduction

The Australian Winter Youth Olympic Team are leaving Lausanne 2020 with four medals, and a big boost in confidence that they can match it with the best young winter athletes in the world.

Content

Australia’s Team of 33 selected athletes aged 14-17, competed in seven disciplines during the two-week period in the Olympic capital; including biathlon, 3x3 ice hockey, short track speed skating, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing and snowboard.

Snowboarder Josie Baff created history when she won Australia’s first-ever Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) gold medal in the women’s snowboard cross on Day 11 of the Games.

After six runs in three hours to qualify for the 4-skier Big Final, the 16-year-old from Jindabyne claimed gold in dramatic fashion, edging out silver medallist Margaux Herpin of France by just 0.05 seconds.

Baff’s historic win was Australia’s first Winter Youth Olympic gold medal and Australia’s 7th individual Winter YOG medal (3 silver, 3 bronze from Innsbruck 2012 and Lillehammer 2016). 

“I can’t believe it, it’s very overwhelming, very surreal,” Baff said after her win.

“In the Big Final I had everyone come up behind me in the home straight and at the end I didn’t even know I had won until I looked back at the board, and then I burst into tears.” 

Baff was later announced as the Australian Closing Ceremony Flag Bearer for the third edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Australia also won a silver and two bronze medals in the Mixed NOC 3x3 Ice Hockey.

The 3x3 Ice Hockey competition was a new event on the Winter Youth Olympic programme.

The Teams consisted of 11 field players, plus two goalkeepers, all from different nations.

14-year-old Courtney Mahoney won silver with her team, Women’s Black, while Nikki Sharp (Women’s Blue) and Sai Lake (Men’s Brown) are both heading home with a bronze medal.

Mahoney hopes the three Aussie medals in Lausanne inspire the next generation of Aussie ice hockey athletes.

“I think it’s very cool to see that we can play up to the standards of everyone else around the world, and if three of us can get Youth Olympic medals, then many more of us can get it too.” 

There have been personal bests in biathlon, cross country skiing and short track speed skating. 

Slopestyle athletes had the opportunity to compete alongside World Champions and World Cup athletes.

Plus, alpine skiers and the ski and snowboard cross athletes joined forces for unique mixed relays, all while making the most of the world-class venues in the breathtaking Swiss Alps with their families cheering from the sidelines.


“I am really proud of how our Team have performed here in Lausanne, representing Australia with passion and pride both on and off the snow,” Australian Chef de Mission and Vancouver 2010 Olympian, Ramone Cooper said.

“The competition has been a very high standard, and it was fantastic to see all athletes rise to the occasion to put down performances they can be proud of.

“Josie’s snowboard cross gold medal was a real highlight for the Team and huge validation in terms of the work that’s going on in the winter pathway programs made by Snow Australia and the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia.

“Off the field, our athletes have embraced the Games experience, through life in the village and cultural experiences around Lausanne. The 33 athletes are heading home with an unforgettable international experience and connections all over the world.”

The Games brought together almost 2000 young athletes from 73 nations to compete across 16 disciplines. Besides the world-class competition, athletes have immersed themselves in Athlete 365 educational services, met numerous Olympic Champions, embraced the media opportunities, and made life-long friends around the world.

With language, cultural and political differences aside, the Games have untied the youth through the power of sport.

Ice Hockey player Ebony Brunt, who represented Australia in the Mixed NOC 3x3 tournament, summed up the power of the Youth Olympic Games when she said: “It’s like hockey is our language.”

“We can’t all speak the same language, but hockey brings us together. I know when we first met each other in the changerooms it was so awkward, but now after our first few games, we’re all so close because we play the sport we love together.”

Catch up on all the daily wraps, features and results HERE.

From retirement to Tokyo 2020, Fernon proves anything is possible

Submitted by admin on Thu, 01/23/2020 - 05:50
Hero Image
Title
Fernon - Andrew Meers
Article Introduction

Modern Pentathlete Edward Fernon became Australia’s sixth athlete selected for the Tokyo 2020 Australian Olympic Team, coming out of a four-year retirement to nab the men’s qualification spot at the 2019 Asian/Oceania Championships and Olympic qualifier.

Content

After some encouragement from his coach and wife, the father-of-two came out of retirement with just 12 weeks to knuckle down and take a shot at his second Olympic Games.

When asked if making an Olympic comeback was always part of the plan, the London 2012 Olympian said, “absolutely not.”

“We joke that I had a four-year taper, but coming back definitely wasn’t part of the plan,” he said.

“I thought that part of my life was over in 2015 after the World Championships in Berlin. After that I really put myself into my business and my family and started going on some great adventures and challenges.”

 

Fernon is very community-minded, with the adventures and challenges he refers to being charity rides and summits to raise awareness around mental health along with building co-living properties with an aim of reducing loneliness and making rental accommodation more flexible and affordable.

With plenty to keep him busy between running businesses, raising money for charity and helping raise a family, making a comeback to elite sport was the last thing on his mind.

Until he received a call from his past.

“Out of the blue I received a surprising phone call from my old coach, Dean Gleeson saying I need to make a comeback for the Olympics,” the 31-year-old explained.
 


 

“I said, ‘No way, I can’t do that,’ but he kept calling me and I had a good, long chat to my wife about it.

"The Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying event was only three months away, but we decided that I’d just go hard for those 12 weeks, training as hard as I could and see if I could qualify again.

“Initially, it was incredibly nerve-wracking, not knowing where I was with my fitness or if I’d be able to come back,” he continued.

“I went down to the pool and swam a 2:40, which was well over 30 seconds off my personal best so I had a lot of work to do but the muscle memory was amazing, it was still there and it was great to get back into it and enjoy the sport again.

“I was able to find that passion again and my reason for getting into Modern Pentathlon in the first place, so it was really special.”

 

But it wasn’t an easy ride for Fernon, who drew the most difficult horse of the Tokyo 2020 qualification event.

“I drew a very, very difficult horse,” he said.

“I was actually laughing with my coach at the time. We usually take notes on all the horses and I asked for the notes on that particular horse and he said, 'Oh I didn’t get any sorry, I must have missed it,’ but the reality was we had notes on the horse, he just didn’t want to give them to me because they were so negative!

“I was able to get on that horse in the warm-up, and we had some difficulties. But to be able to give the horse the confidence to move forward with pace and rhythm was good,” he explained.

“Horses can sense when you’re tense or fearful so to just get on there, be relaxed, end up successfully winning that ride and the Tokyo 2020 spot was great.” 

Fernon initially started Modern Pentathlon as a teenager. He had always been a keen horse rider and runner, but when he began the sport it was less about passion and more about balancing out a party-filled uni life.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Asian championships opening ceremony #kazakhstanisthegreatest...

A post shared by Ed Fernon (@edfernon) on


“When I was 19, I was studying at Sydney University,” Fernon said.

“I had a riding background and I was a good runner at high school, so after about six months of repetitive hangovers, I realised I needed to make a change in my life.

“I was looking for a personal challenge, something I could delve myself into. I’d always had a passion for horses, so that seemed like a pretty logical way to get into Modern Pentathlon.

“My uncle actually lived next door to the man who trained the horses for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and he suggested I try Modern Pentathlon, and that’s where it all started.”

Having two of the sports under his belt made the transition easier, but Fernon still had three sports to master, two of which he’d never touched and one he was ‘terrible at’.

“I’d never picked up a pistol before, or an épée (fencing sword) and I was a pretty terrible swimmer,” he admitted.

 

It was a frank conversation with Daniel Esposito, father of Modern Pentathlon Olympic Champion, Chloe Esposito, that made Fernon realise he had to commit to the sport if he wanted to pursue Modern Pentathlon seriously.

“It was the 27th of August 2007, and I had a meeting with Daniel Esposito.

“He said to me, ‘Unless you’re considering going to an Olympic Games, it’s just not worth starting. There’s too much time, money and effort involved just to give it a go, you’re either 100% in or you’re out.’

“That was the best advice for me at that stage because otherwise, I think I would’ve just dabbled in the sport and not taken it as seriously, but after that conversation, I made the decision to commit 100% and pretty much dedicate my whole life to it, which led to me competing at the London 2012 Olympics five years later.”

 

The idea of Modern Pentathlon was introduced by the military as a way of creating ‘the ultimate soldier.’ Being able to demonstrate strength in all five disciplines; fencing, swimming, horse riding, pistol shooting and cross country running made a person ideal for military combat.

In an Olympic sense, it is meant to be a representation of the ‘complete athlete’ but Fernon explained every athlete has their strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s very difficult trying to learn new sports, particularly to get to a high level.

“For me, swimming was a huge issue. Most Australians learn how to swim from a young age so are already at a high level. For me to come back a bit older and learn that sport was very difficult but also very pleasing because it really taught me a lot about myself.

“It was a great experience to go through all that hard work. The other sports like shooting and fencing are a lot more technical, which over time you develop as long as you put the hours into training.”

 

The Sydneysider explained that every discipline requires a different mindset, and it hasn’t been until his recent comeback, that he’s been able to master that completely.

“In the fencing I've got much more of an aggressive approach, I want to take it to my opponent, I want to put the pressure on them and try and get them to crack. 

“Then you come to elements like the horse riding and the shooting where you really need to stay relaxed.

“You need to stay calm and go in there with a zen mindset. Then in swimming and the running you want that relaxation while you're also really trying to go all out.

 

“All of those parts are incredibly important. As I've matured as an athlete this is the area where I have improved; having the maturity and knowing what I need to do at those particular times and at those big moments.”

As for how he feels about his selection for Tokyo 2020, Fernon said the overarching feeling is pride, because he was able to prove that anything is possible.

“I can remember when I made the decision to come back, I went to bed that night terrified because I knew the hard work that was required.

“I knew the pressure all of those difficult aspects of the sport so I’m incredibly proud of the way I dealt with that mentally, and putting the pressure of competing aside to qualify for my second Olympics. I never thought I'd have an opportunity to make a comeback so it’s incredibly pleasing,” he continued.

“It shows that anything's possible. If you look for the opportunities in life, you never know where you could end up or what you could achieve.”

Liana Buratti

Primary Tag

Pentathlete Edward Fernon selected to Tokyo 2020 Australian Olympic Team

Submitted by admin on Thu, 01/23/2020 - 05:50
Hero Image
Title
Ed Fernon Sydney Uni - AOC
Article Introduction

Modern Pentathlete Edward Fernon has been selected to the Tokyo 2020 Australian Olympic Team, the sixth athlete named to the Team.

Content

The 31-year-old father of two will make his return to the Olympic arena after debuting at London 2012. 

Fernon, who splits his time between Sydney and his family farm in Galong in south-east New South Wales, stepped away from Modern Pentathlon in 2015 to concentrate on his family, business and conquering other sporting pursuits, including winning the epic 1000km Mongol Derby horserace in 2017.

After finishing 27th at London 2012, Fernon took on a solo horse trek from Braidwood to Melbourne, riding 1100km to raise more than $55 000 for the Black Dog Institute and promote awareness for depression in regional areas.

Fernon won the Oceania qualifying event in Wuhan, China in November 2019, after an intensive training program to return to elite fitness and achieve his comeback to the international stage.

 

Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said Fernon’s selection and successful comeback was testament to his drive to achieve.  

“The AOC is proud to select Ed to his second Olympic Team,” Mr Chesterman said. “His determination and fantastic contribution both on and off the Pentathlon arena exemplify the Australian Olympic spirit.

“Ed has shown he has what it takes to compete at the highest level, and has used his position as an Olympian for vital causes close to his heart.

“Congratulations not only to Ed, but to his family, coaches, community and Modern Pentathlon Australia for everything you have done to contribute to this fantastic milestone.”

Fernon is ecstatic to be making his Olympic return.

“It's a surreal experience to be back,” Fernon said. “The Olympics is what drives me on all those difficult training days when you're sore and you're tired, you don't want to get out of bed. Knowing that you've got the Olympics there is incredibly motivating.

“I’ve come back as a much more mature athlete – I’ve got two young boys, I’ve got a business and a lot more going on than in 2012. Knowing that my two young boys will be able to watch their dad compete at an Olympics is truly special.

 

“I’m much more aware this time that the Olympics is about so much more than just my performance – it’s such an opportunity to inspire other people, including friends and family, to know that they can go out and achieve their goals.

“I’m incredibly grateful for my wife to give me the opportunity to chase qualification, and for all my coaches who believed in me that I could come back.” 

Those coaches include Olympic fencer Bill Ronald and Dean Gleeson, Fernon’s swimming and laser-run coach who was instrumental in encouraging him to return to international competition.

Fernon’s exceptional riding skills were pivotal to his win at the combined Asia/Oceania qualifying event, finishing on top in the show-jumping discipline.

“My favourite discipline is definitely horse riding – as a young child we had a farm in Wagga Wagga, I couldn’t wait to get down there on school holidays to ride and I went jackarooing in north Queensland when I left school, riding’s always been a real passion of mine.”

Modern Pentathlon Australia President and Sydney 2000 Olympian Kitty Chiller has seen Fernon go from a rookie first trying Modern Pentathlon in 2007 to achieving his Olympic dream in 2012 and returning to the Olympic Team in 2020.

“When Ed rang me three months before the Oceania qualifier, saying he was thinking of making a comeback to the sport, I was very surprised but also very pleased,” Ms Chiller said.

“Ed is a highly talented athlete and I knew that the maturity he had gained in so many areas of his life since the London Games would hold him in very good stead for another Olympic experience.

“Ed’s performance in the qualifier in China in November last year was outstanding, in fact it was one of his best ever international performances – after only a few months training. So I am very excited about what he can achieve in Tokyo with another eight months training under his belt.”

Fernon’s passion for riding has seen him conquer remarkable challenges since his London Olympic debut, including winning the gruelling 1000km Mongol Derby in 2017.

 

“It’s incredibly challenging, riding across Mongolia for 10 days with 28 semi-wild Mongol horses. I brought all the things I had learnt through modern pentathlon to this challenge, and was able to win the race in a new record time.

“I’ve learnt so much about how to find comfort in the discomfort. I've been able to put myself into these difficult pressure environments and realised nothing can happen to me which I can't handle. It gives me a huge amount of confidence to know I can walk into that Olympic space again, when all the pressure’s on and know that I can get through it and compete well.

“As an Olympian, being able to use that experience to lend a helping hand is amazing. After London, I really wanted to make a difference in rural depression – my mum suffered from depression and I’ve seen first hand the impact it has. It takes a huge toll wherever you are, but the services for people living in the bush are much less.”

Recreating legendary racehorse Archer’s journey from the horse’s birthplace in Braidwood to Flemington where he won his two Melbourne Cups, Fernon rode 1100km across the Snowy Mountains to raise more than $55 000 for mental health.

“We rode for five weeks, meeting amazing people and raising money along the way and importantly raising awareness about rural depression – letting people know it’s okay to not be okay.

“There are a lot of people in the bush really hurting at the moment with drought and bushfires so the message is as relevant as ever.”

 

Fernon’s pursuit of excellence also extends to the business world, building a successful property development company, and working on making rental accommodation more flexible and affordable and reducing loneliness.

After conquering challenges in business, the Modern Pentathlon arena and around the world, Fernon knows he performs his best when he stays in the moment.

“I think my biggest successes have come without putting any expectations on myself, just to stay really focused on my process, my training and fitness. And I think when you're take that expectation off, I can be really dangerous.”

Australia’s top female modern pentathletes have battled injury disruptions to their Tokyo 2020 qualification campaigns, but reigning Olympic champion Chloe Esposito and Tokyo 2020 hopeful Marina Carrier can secure their place at Tokyo through securing one of six places based on the Olympic ranking list on 1 June 2020, or by finishing in the top three of non-qualified athletes in May’s World Championships.

The Modern Pentathlon competition in Tokyo will see 36 athletes per gender compete in fencing, swimming (200m freestyle), show-jumping, and the final combined run and laser shoot (3200m and four shoots of five targets), in the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza and Tokyo Stadium. The fencing ranking round for men and women will be held on Thursday 6 August, before the women’s competition is held on Friday 7 August and the men’s medals decided on Saturday 8 August. 

Click here for a Modern Pentathlon Fast Facts and update on the Tokyo 2020 Australian Olympic Team, including selected athletes and quotas won. 

Vale Maurice Stephen (Maurie) Plant (12 Feb 1953 to 19 January 2020)

Submitted by admin on Wed, 01/22/2020 - 15:58
Hero Image
Title
Maurie Plant
Article Introduction

Maurie Plant’s connection with athletics was inextricable and unique.

Content

When he passed away on Sunday afternoon the sport – from the school and club scene in Australia to the very top of the sport internationally - lost a key component of its engine.

There is no replacement part available.

Unlike many of his level of impact and influence might be described, Maurie was not a towering figure in the sport. For he was neither physically tall nor did he seek to impose himself in the public eye.

Although he was known to quip that – “if you stand next to the winner there’s a fair chance you’ll be in a photo”.  And when in that regard he practised what he preached it was inevitably totally justified – in myriad instances Maurie Plant had made a positive difference to that athlete’s journey to success. Stewart McSweyn will have the honour of being the last.

Long-time sports promoter, mentor and mate John Toleman says that Maurie was the outstanding schoolboy sprinter and hurdler of his day and for much of the period since.

He was referring to Maurie’s achievements as a teenage athlete for Xavier College in Melbourne’s then thriving APS athletics competition and for Victoria in the then only under age interstate competition in the nation – the Shell East Coast Under 17 Match.

Maurie dominated his APS years in his own age group and sometimes the one above. The 200 metres record he set in 1967 was not bettered for forty years.

He made the Victorian Team for the under 17 match a rare three times – at 14 he was second on the 200m hurdles, an event he then won the following year. At 16 he won the 110m hurdles. He stood on the dais every year from 1966 to 1970 at the Victorian All Schools.

Fellow Athletics Australia Life Member and Sandringham club mate Gary Bourne recalls – absolutely correctly that Maurie remains the reigning Victorian junior champion for the hurdles treble with his victories at 120, 220 and 440 yards at the 1970 State Championships.

The following year when the VAAA finally converted to metric Maurie was the inaugural junior champion at the 400m hurdles – leaving the 110s to his life-long mate Peter Fitzgerald. The 1976 Olympian recalls that until around that time his sole goal in athletics was to beat Maurie Plant at something.

During the same period Maurie was often a training partner for Raelene Boyle during the prime of her career.

A serious bout of glandular fever and the ever-increasing heights of the hurdles as time marched on towards senior ranks ended Maurie’s on-track career but paved the way for an extraordinary journey off it. His known personal bests are 10.7 for 100m and 54.4 for the 400m hurdles.

He had a technical education as a draftsman but soon began working with adidas alongside AFL legend Ted Whitten and international hurdler and later on AA president David Prince.

It was through this role that Maurie developed the extraordinary knack of knowing just about everybody who needed to be known – in sport, the media and the retail trade in particular.

The chance to head to Europe and exposure to the European athletics circuit opened new doors especially through an enduring friendship with British meet promoter Andy Norman.

Maurie’s capacity to understand what was needed to make a meet great and what an athlete needed to do to be a great part of it grew rapidly. He quickly grasped the complex logistics of what it took to get each athlete to the starting line as well as the motivations that might lead a spectator to turn up or a television viewer to tune in.

Maurie came to know the rules and procedures for every event but always left those matters to the technical officials – the volunteers he knew were critical for a successful meet and for whom he always had massive respect. Those he would say were not of his concern – for they were ”matters technical”.

From assisting Andy securing athletes a start and then getting them to and from meets all over Europe, Maurie soon became an athletes’ representative (the sport’s term for an agent) in his own right – no better exemplified than by his work from day one with a young Darren Clark.

This was a crucial moment for Australia’s athletes. The country’s best had often made it in some way onto the European circuit but Maurie’s emergence in the role opened the floodgates for a great many others.

It was a boom time in Europe. At the height of the season there was a meet of reasonable significance on just about every day – on the more popular days two or more.

But it was well before the days of mobile phones, email and online ticketing and it took special skills and connections to seize the moment – to take up a spare lane and then get an athlete on a plane and to another city for a meet at almost no notice at all.

Maurie was supreme at doing all of that. Always attuned to or ahead of the game he mastered the use of the telex machine – and was more than ready for the arrival of the ground breaking technology of the facsimile.

He was quick to conquer the use of email but his predilection for bizarre choices of font often left recipients wondering what he was actually communicating about.

Concurrently Maurie moved into meet organisation roles beyond assisting Andy. In Europe he developed career long involvements and wonderful personal relationships in particular with Wilfried Meert and Svein Arne Hansen and their teams which each year deliver the Van Damme in Brussels and the Bislett Games in Oslo respectively. But in different ways with many other meets as well.

At home in Australia Maurie took on from 1984 the acquisition of international runners for the emerging Australian Marathon in Sydney and impressive cast lists for meets such as those that were part of the America’s Cup Festival of Sport in Perth in 1987.

He was the assistant mayor of the Village for the IAAF World Cup in Canberra in 1985 and instrumental in putting together an extraordinary “warm-up” meet at ES Marks Field in Sydney the weekend before. The two hour spectacle began at 9.00am because Maurie knew that would best suit the European athletes who had arrived in the previous 24 hours. The world top lists for that year were turned on their head.

Like Wilfried and Svein Arne, AA’s second general manager Neil King was one of those who “got” Maurie’s skills and connections – and the extent of the difference he could make for Australian athletics.

A domestic season was emerging through the Mobil Grand Prix Series and the NEC Classic in Melbourne. By the time in 1993 Sydney was awarded the Olympic Games AA was ready to take full advantage.

A different set of floodgates opened. This time it was athletes from all over the world coming to Australia for training camps and a chance to compete in a vibrant and expanding domestic circuit with a meet in every state and the ACT.

Maurie’s influence was enormous. What he was able to deliver – often with tiny budgets compared to European Meets - was extraordinary.

Australian athletes blossomed – relishing the new competition opportunities and quality international opposition - all available on their own doorstep.

Maurie then found competitions all over the world for this rapidly growing list of top level Australian athletes. During the 1990s it was not unusual for more than 100 Australians to be in Europe at the one time – accessing both one-day circuit meets and international matches that Maurie had set-up with other countries.

Maurie’s own international standing was growing. He was appointed as a member of the IAAF Grand Prix Commission and as an announcer at world youth championships and IAAF grand prix finals – including his pride and joy edition in Melbourne in 2001.

His understanding of what made athletics look good on the screen and his exceptional connection with the top athletes of the world led to a long involvement with BBC Sport.

His legendary spot at the entrance to the TV zone as athletes exited the arena at all the major meets must have terrified those keen to make a quick getaway - for they had no chance of making it past the very first stop.

At home Maurie had a special passion for the annual Melbourne Meet – and worked hard to ensure it remained for so long on the IAAF World Challenge Calendar. He was devastated when it was no longer.

But his interest in the other meets on the Australian circuit never waned. There were quality international athletes at all of them. With Maurie’s encouragement Australia’s best turned up whenever their event was on the schedule – sometimes, even when it was not, so keen were they not to miss out on a special time in Australian athletics.

Maurie got the athletes to the meet hotels, made sure the ground transport schedule from there to the track was correct and then morphed into the role of meet announcer – usually handing over to someone else for the last event so he could take charge of the transport once again.

As recounted by many – his race and field event calling was the stuff of legend. His spooky ability to detect an exceptional performance might be in the wind was a competition director or television producer’s nightmare but the usually spot-on outcome was inevitably what made a meet or a telecast so memorable – as was the volume of his call of the moment.

Maurie’s penchant for making out-of-the-blue insistence on just about anything was very hard to resist. It was unwise to do so for his intuition was rarely misplaced.

His behind-the-scenes roles in ensuring the quality of the entry lists at the 2001 Goodwill Games in Brisbane and IAAF Grand Prix Final in Melbourne and the 2006 and 2018 editions of the Commonwealth Games were little known beyond the inner sanctum of each organising committee - but were vital in growing public interest in international athletics competition in Australia.

Few teams had come to Sydney for the Olympics in 2000 without Maurie Plant’s hand on the training camp or pre-competition arrangements. He was always looking for opportunities for athletes from the island federations of Oceania and warmly embraced their participation in competitions in Australia.

Maurie was immensely proud of the Australian Sports Medal he received in 2000 in recognition of his service to athletics. His life membership of Athletics Australia came in in 2006.

He served on numerous AA committees and commissions and was assistant manager of the athletics section of 1986 Commonwealth Games Team.

For all of his considerable generosity Maurie really only expected commitment or loyalty in return. Either sufficient – both preferred. His long term loyalty to others was beyond measure. No better exemplified when with zero interest in political activity he headed north to be an integral part of Ron Clarke’s successful campaign to become mayor of the Gold Coast.

There was a wonderful life away from athletics for Maurie. After marrying Kate in 1990 they raised three sons – Ben, Toby and Rory. Their home was always open to friends and family. Maurie loved nothing more than to be stationed at the barbeque – cooking up a range of exotically marinated nibbles always followed by something more substantial. He was a fine host.

He was an aficionado of many sports – and could hold court on most of them. Sports trivia was his daily bread.

Maurie had a few health battles over the past decade – most notably restricting how far and easily he could walk. He had open heart surgery in July 2019.

But nothing could slow him down. He had become particularly passionate about ensuring Australia’s hosting of the 2021 world athletics cross country championship would be a success – travelling in November to Portugal with LOC chair Brenda LaPorte to Lisbon to observe the European equivalent and working with Home Affairs on a visa strategy.

He was busy mapping out the qualifying and preparation paths that the athletes he advised should take in order to make it to Tokyo in 2020 - just as he had done in the past for countless others including in more recent times Olympic champions Catherine Freeman, Steve Hooker, Valerie Adams and Sally Pearson.

Maurie contracted septicaemia soon after Christmas. He was in a coma for three weeks but did not wake before his passing.

He is survived by Ben, Toby and Rory and his siblings – Commonwealth Games hurdles finalist Vin, Cecily, Michael and Elaine.

Maurie’s funeral service to which family, friends and the athletics community are most welcome will be held on Wednesday 29 January 2020 at 10.00m at St Ignatius Church, 326 Church Street, Richmond, Melbourne.

Brian Roe

Royal Australian Mint

Submitted by admin on Wed, 01/22/2020 - 10:24
Logo Image
Sponsor Introduction Title
The Royal Australian Mint is a valued Australian Olympic Team Partner 2020
Sponsor Introduction Content

The Royal Australian Mint (the Mint) is proud to sponsor the 2020 Australian Olympic Team and continue the long-serving tradition of marking our nation’s greatest moments and ongoing achievements in history with the art of coins.

Throughout this partnership, the Mint will endeavour to embody our nation’s affiliation and love of sport within the production of high quality and memorable coins to mark the occasion.

As an official partner of the Australian Olympic Committee, the Mint will provide tangible keepsakes for Australians to treasure for years to come and remind them of the sense of pride and achievement we felt in our athletes.

The Mint has a proud history with the Olympics including the honour of producing the Sydney 2000 Olympic Victory Medals, Sydney 2000 Olympic Coin Program and Rio 2016 Olympic Coin Program.

In 1965, the Mint was opened to produce the coins for the introduction of decimal currency and is now the sole producer of Australia’s circulating coins. The Mint also holds an internationally renowned reputation for producing innovative and eye-catching collectible coins which have been admired on the world stage.
 

Chen fulfills Youth Olympic dream at Lausanne 2020

Submitted by admin on Wed, 01/22/2020 - 07:15
Hero Image
Title
Alex Chen and her family at Lausanne 2020
Article Introduction

For the past four years, Alex Chen has been dreaming of representing Australia at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG). This year, her dreams came true when she successfully qualified for the Lausanne 2020 Australian Team.  

Content

Setting her sights on her own Youth Olympic experience after watching the 2016 edition in Lillehammer, Chen dedicated herself to her training with the aim to put herself in the best position to qualify. 

“I put in the work and trained really hard. I also tried to do my best at all of the competitions to qualify, with the main qualifying event being the Junior Worlds back in April 2019,” she said.  

At the end of 2019, Chen received the news that she had been selected for the Australian Team, just as she was boarding a flight to America for the Northern Hemisphere ski season.  

“When I found out, I was standing in the line just about to board my flight. It was quite funny because I was being so loud and just screaming with joy, and the other people in the airport were just staring at me. 

“I quickly posted on Instagram, and when I landed 14 hours later, I received so many lovely messages from my friends and family,” the 17-year-old said.  

While Chen originally started her winter sport career as a skier, she transitioned to snowboarding at the age of 8 and made the decision to specialise in Freestyle Snowboarding in 2018.  

“I was a member of the Perisher Winter Sports Club, which allowed me to do both skiing and snowboarding. However, I was more intrigued with freestyle snowboarding, as there is more room for creativity,” Chen said.  

“While it is a bit more daring, in comparison to racing, the reward after you land a new trick is definitely worth the risk.” 

Chen wrapped up her Lausanne 2020 campaign on Tuesday having competed in all three of the freestyle snowboarding events; Slopestyle, Halfpipe, and Big Air.  

Her first event, slopestyle, took place on Saturday. In this event, Chen competed against some of the best athletes in the world for her age group, including World Cup level athletes.  

“I was nervous competing against the World Cup athletes at first, mainly because my run isn't as technical as theirs,” she said.  

“I quickly realised, we were all battling the same course and I can only do the best that I can do, while they will do the best that they can do. At the end of the day, I have made it this far and I am really proud of that achievement.” 

She returned to Leysin Ski resort two days later to contest the Women’s Halfpipe, finishing in 13th place. Her final event on Tuesday was the Big Air, where she placed 17th. 

“To be able to wear the green and gold to represent our country has been breathtaking. I’m so proud, it’s been amazing and to get to do it alongside great junior athletes is incredible,”  Chen said. 

“Representing Australia at the YOG has been a dream come true. If you had asked me five years ago if I thought I would one day be at the Youth Olympics, I never would have thought I could have made it here, so to be here right now is unbelievable. It’s so surreal, I don’t really have any words for it – I'm so excited and happy."

Cheering from the sidelines were Chen’s parents, who were able to travel to Switzerland to support their daughter throughout the competition. Chen’s younger brothers are also snowboard athletes, cheering on their sister from afar. 

“It means the world to me that my parents and sister are here!” Chen said.  

“While my brothers didn’t get to come due to a training camp in Italy, they sent me a video of them watching the live stream with their own commentary, which was interesting.”  

Both of Chens brothers also compete in snowboarding, and while they are at a similar level to her, they were too young to compete at this year’s YOG. However, Chen is optimistic they will be at the next YOG in four years' time, following in her footsteps.  

As for her own future in the sport, Chen is hoping to qualify for the next Winter Olympic Games in 2022, using her YOG experience as a steppingstone.  

“At first I wasn’t really sure about the Olympics. But being here at the YOG has really inspired me and has confirmed my dreams to one day represent Australia at the Winter Olympics,” Chen said. 

“Meeting everyone, and the whole experience and atmosphere... It’s incredible!” 

Taylah O'Neill

Cross Country PBs and Big Air final qualifications on Day 12 of Lausanne 2020 

Submitted by admin on Wed, 01/22/2020 - 06:55
Hero Image
Title
Zana Evans AUS in action during the Cross-Country Skiing Women’s 5km Classic at Vallee de Joux Cross-Country Centre
Article Introduction

Rosie Fordham and Zana Evans had personal best performances in the 5km Classic Women’s Cross Country on Day 12 of Lausanne 2020. 

Content
Image
Title
Live Stream Banner - Lausanne 2020

Finishing well inside the top 50%, Fordham placed 36th, with Evans right behind in 37th.  15-year-old Evans said everything just fell into place for her third and final event at Lausanne 2020. 

“I’m stoked, like honestly I couldn’t ask for anything better,” she said after today’s race. 

“My teammates out there, my family, the coaches, my skis, the warm-up went to plan, it was a lot of things that really clicked today.” 

Evans didn’t know what to expect coming into the Winter Youth Olympics but is leaving feeling more motivated than ever. 

“I honestly had no expectations coming in, I didn’t know what the competition was going to be like, but now that I’ve completed it, I’m really happy and it’s a big achievement for me,” the Jindabyne local said. 

“I think it’s achieving a goal to something much bigger. Being here really opens you up to the bigger picture and the bigger Games. This is just a small step towards more international races, and maybe eventually ending up in the Olympics.” 

Teammate Hugo Hinckfuss put down another strong performance, with a 50th place finish in the Men’s 10km Classic. Fellow Aussie John Mordes struggled to replicate his strong performance from the Sprint event a few days earlier, falling a few times in the icy conditions to finish 67th. 

Day 12 of Lausanne 2020 also saw the end of the Ski and Snowboard cross events with the Ski-Snowboard Mixed Team Relay. 

The Australian Team featured snowboard cross Youth Olympic gold medalist Josie Baff, 7th place men’s snowboard cross rider Finn Sadler, plus ski cross races Kyra Wheatley (13th) and Ben Wynn (14th). 

After crossing first in their individual runs, Baff and Wheatley gave Team Australia a strong lead in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, Sadler’s board was clipped by another rider mid-race, causing him to have a hard crash. Wynn was unable to make up the time difference, and the team finished third in their quarterfinal, to place 9th overall. 

Mia Rennie and Abi Harrigan competed In the Women’s Freeski Big Air. Harrigan scored 52.33 in the first run and 10.66 after crashing in the second run, placing her in 15th position. Rennie scored 59.33 in the first run and 19.00 on the second run, which saw her finish 11th and secure her place in Wednesday’s  Big Air Final.  

“It was awesome weather, good competition, great jump, so there were a lot of good vibes at the top,” 16-year-old Rennie said.  

“I managed to keep my tricks super chill so I could qualify myself a spot in the finals which I did so I’m super stoked about that, so we have that tomorrow and that’s when business gets real. 

“My focus today was coming here to do what I did, which was make finals and to put the tricks down that could make me down that could make me get into finals which I did so I’m stoked.  

“Tomorrow in finals is the tricks that I want to land in competition so I’m here to work on them and do the best I can. 

Lily Jekel and Alexandra Chen competed in the Snowboard Women’s Big Air. Jekel scored 22.00 in her first run and 33.66 in her second run, placing her in 14th place. Chen scored 15.33 in her first qualifying run and 16.33 in her second, with a final position of 17th place, which did not see either athlete move through to Finals.  

“I’m pretty happy, I did land two runs” Chen said.  “I didn’t exactly put down what I wanted to, I did want to do something a bit more difficult, but it was a little tough, there was a bit of wind coming in and out which was a bit scary. 

“The plan I had put together with my coach didn’t really go to plan, but we did readjust.” 

Today at Leysin, Sunny Steele competed in the Snowboard Men’s Halfpipe. In the first qualification run, Steele placed 12th with a score of 37.33. His second qualification run placed him in 15th with a score of 36.33, which did not see him progress to the 12-rider finals.  

“I was super nervous. I was a bit shaky up the top, but I put both my runs down, so I’m super happy. I was just trying to do my best and land my run,” Steele said.  

“I was definitely trying to stay safe today to prepare for Big Air tomorrow which is one of my favourite events.” 

Steele and Rennie are the only two Aussies in action on Day 13, the final day of competition at Lausanne 2020. Steele will compete in the Men’s Big Air qualification in the morning, aiming to qualify for the afternoon finals. After Tuesday's qualification, Rennie is through to Wednesday’s Women's Big Air final, kicking off at 11.50am (1.50am AEDT).