Australia is best known for its prowess in summer sports, but an Olympic studies expert predicts the 2010 Games in Vancouver Canada could offer its best chance ever for winter medal success.
Dr Richard Baka of Victoria University's School of Sport and Exercise Science – one of the country's few Olympic Games' academics and historians – says Australia's 37-person Winter Olympics team could win up to four medals in Vancouver – its best Winter Games result ever.
Australia has earned only six medals since it started participating in the Winter Games in 1936 (compared to more than 450 during the Summer Games). Its best performance was in Salt Lake City in 2002 when it won two golds – in aerial skiing and speed skating.
"Vancouver is on track to definitely add to our small, but growing medal tally at the Winter Games," he said.
Dr Baka predicted Australia's best chances are with:
- Dale Begg-Smith in the men's moguls who took home gold from the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy;
- Lydia Lassila in aerial freestyle skiing with her recent World Cup wins and record point total;
- Torah Bright in the snowboard half-pipe, due to her high level of success since Torino in 2006;
- Longer-shot athletes, but still contenders: the seasoned Olympian Jacqui Cooper and Liz Gardner in aerial freestyle skiing, and Holly Crawford in the snowboard half-pipe.
"Vancouver is like a second home to many of our athletes and there will be a large contingent of Aussie supporters who either are there on working holidays or making the trip to see the Games. All this will work in our favour. However, injuries or a bad day can obviously determine podium finishes so realistically a one to four medal tally for our Australian team is what I expect."
Dr Baka, an Australian-Canadian citizen, has more than 35 years experience in all aspects of the Olympic Games, including presenting papers at international conferences, guest lecturing at universities around the world, and regularly contributing comments to the media.
Prior to and during the Vancouver Games, he will be giving a series of live Skype-style lectures to university professors and students studying Olympic subjects in Germany, Canada and Australia.
The Vancouver Games will be his sixth Olympics. Dr Baka also attended the Games in Montreal in 1976, Los Angeles in 1984, Calgary in 1988, Sydney in 2000, and Beijing in 2008. He has also been to several Commonwealth and University Games.
Dr Baka is available for interview. He leaves for Canada on 8 February, but can be contacted by email after that
Dr Richard Baka, Senior Lecturer, School of Sport and Exercise Science, Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 4358 (work); (03) 9397 2939 (after hours); or 0403 031 295 (mobile). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Marie Angebrandt, Media Officer, Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University, Ph: (03) 9919 5487