ASPIRE: Sydney hopefuls push for podium at Rio

Published 16 December 2015 (AEDT)

ASPIRE#3: With eight months to go until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games a half-day of missed training is not advisable but when it is for an inspirational planning session it is time well spent.

The ASPIRE #RoadToRio session in Sydney featured 60 athletes from nine sports, some chasing their first Olympic Team and others with Olympic medals and Games experience to share, with the aim to get athletes from ‘participation to performance excellence ready’.

Rio will be a challenging environment for athletes and these sessions are designed to help athletes prepare, while creating a strong and educated ‘One Team’.

2016 Team Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller said with 233 days until the Opening Ceremony that we are ‘getting to the pointy end of the campaign’.

She reminded athletes what she expects from the culture and values of the Team and what kind of athletes and actions will make the Australian public proud.

The session was held on the same day that the Australian Olympic Committee revealed its 2015 benchmark medal statistics, which show Australia is in striking distance of the ambitious target of top 5 on the gold and overall medal tally at the Rio Games. (Full detail here>>>)

Some athletes at ASPIRE today like BMX racer Sam Willoughby, track cyclist Kaarle McCulloch and diver Esther Qin contributed to the benchmark tally for 2015.

The women’s water polo team and former BMX world champion Caroline Buchannan who missed podiums at this year’s benchmark events and are aiming for nothing less in Rio, were also at ASPIRE.

““We’ve had ignite which really ignited that flame in me and now we are eight months out and have had the ASPIRE session,” Buchanan, an Olympic finalist in 2012, said.

“Half of winning is ensuring you are prepared and today was about getting all the athletes together to make sure that we are prepared.”

Women’s water polo captain Bronwyn Know got plenty of information and motivation from the session.

“I got goose bumps from the ASPIRE session and it was fantastic to hear what’s happening and where they’re up to,” Knox said.

“You do hear a lot of gossip through the media, where everyone is asking you questions and you don’t really know how to answer them so hearing it straight from the AOC is fantastic.

“It answered a lot of my questions before I even had to ask them. I puts your mind at ease so you can really focus on what you need to do.”

Triathlete Aaron Royle and the men’s water polo team who have qualified their spot for Rio and looking for podium breakthroughs in Rio played a big part in the session.

Royle shared his experiences from competing in Rio at the Test event and took in the other logistical and motivational content.

“Not that I’ve needed a lot of inspiration or motivation, I think that knowing that the Olympics are coming up is quite motivating enough,” Royle said.

“But when you come to these sessions, and see the great athletes that have been to the Olympics in the past. There was a video at the start of the session where if people didn’t have goose bumps they weren’t in the right room.”

Richie Campbell is the vice-captain of the men’s water polo team and on his third Olympic campaign. He and his players are aiming to create history in Rio as the first Aussie men’s team to win a medal.

“Definitely looking for podium finish for us and I’ll be disappointed if we don’t,” Campbell said.

Social media education and getting athletes to empower themselves with their decisions around managing its distractions is a big part of ASPIRE.

As well as briefing and questions from the floor, athletes watched a video featuring Olympic medallists Anna Meares, Sally Pearson, Cate Campbell and Emily Seebohm about how they dealt with social media at the London Games, what they have learnt and their approach for Rio 2016.

The message from the AOC is for athletes to have a plan for social media to ensure there are no distractions that could ‘de-rail’ the one opportunity to excel at the Olympic Games.

Athletes also had the excitement of trying on uniforms and had photos taken for accreditation, captured social media content and conducted interviews with media.

Sydney 2000 Olympic sprinter Matt Shirvington was the MC and shared his experience as an athlete and from the media perspective on a range of topics including serious matters of anti-doping and the Team Membership Agreement

Security, immunisations, Australia’s exclusive facility near the Village “The Edge”, plus health and wellbeing was all discussed.

Hannah Buckling is aiming for her first Olympic Team.

“Really good, so inspiring. Some of those videos, the footage from Channel 7 and the speakers it's really just motivated me I just want to get back in the pool and start training again,” Buckling said.

“It's so exciting. We did a bit of a fitting a few months ago, but getting your accreditation photos done today and profile biography done, it's just so exciting.”

Between now and April around 800 athletes and officials from all sports will have attended one of these inspirational sessions.

The final 2016 Australian Olympic Team is anticipated to be 450 athletes.

Andrew Reid

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