Four aussies open campaigns Day 8
18 February 2006
It’s been a long wait, but Super G alpine racer AJ Bear, the two-man bob sleigh team of Jeremy Rolleston and Shane McKenzie, and teenage short-track skater Emily Rosemond finally open their Olympic campaigns on 18 February (Day 8).
Bear has shaken off a virus that has dogged him for most of this season. Competing at his second Olympics, he is ready to put the memory of not finishing in the Super G at Salt Lake 2002 behind him.
“I'm feeling 100 percent now and really ready to rip it up – to just give it my all and see what happens,” Bear said.
The 29-year-old from Sydney has been training well on the hill at Sestriere Borgota, the same hill used for the men’s downhill earlier in the week with the course around two-thirds of the length.
Super G is the second-fastest of the alpine events and, in many ways, the most challenging, requiring not only skiing ability, but bravery and brainpower as well. For Bear staying relaxed is the key.
"I ski my fastest when I'm relaxed and I'm enjoying it, so I don't really have any other expectations, so I'm just going to go out there and try to enjoy it," he said.
"I know what to do. I've done all the hard work. My body knows what to do, my subconscious knows what to do, so I've just got to go out there and let myself do it."
Bear’s highest finish at the World Championships in Super G was 25th in 1999 and this season his best World Cup performance was 27th in Val Gardena, Italy.
Controversial US skier Bode Miller, who was disqualified in the combined for skiing over a gate, and Nagano 1998 champion Hermann Maier will attract the most attention.
At Cesana Pariol, bobsleigh pilot Jeremy Rolleston and brakeman Shane McKenzie believe they can achieve Australia’s best-ever Olympic two-man result, bettering Jason Giobbi and Adam Barclay's 22nd in Nagano eight years ago.
"We're feeling pretty good about ourselves. We're quite confident in our own abilities, but measured up against the best in the world, that's a bit of an unknown quantity," 33-year-old Rolleston from Sydney said.
"I'm the only pilot who hasn't driven the track before, and I've been placing between 19th and 22nd out of 29, which is spot-on where I'd like to be in terms of the race result."
Adelaide-born McKenzie is in much the same frame of mind on the eve of their event.
"It's been nice to be back on the ice. We've had a little bit of time off from training in St Moritz and a week off after winning the Challenge Cup and coming over for our Olympic preparation," 32-year-old McKenzie said.
Germany’s number one team piloted by Andre Langer looks likely to continue their dominance in the sport.
In Torino city on the Palavela ice, 19-year-old Brisbane skater Emily Rosemond takes on the world’s powerhouse short trackers from China and Korea when she makes her Olympic debut.
Korea cleaned up at Salt Lake City 2002, winning gold and silver and have the number one ranked World Cup skater Sun-Yu JIN competing at Torino 2006.
China’s Meng Wang won gold in the 500m on Day 5 but her team mate Yang Yang (A) is considered the stronger prospect over the longer distance, with four Olympic medals to her name.
Rosemond has drawn Yang Yang (A) of China in her heat and needs to finish in the top three from a field of five skaters, to advance to the semi-final round. The heats, semi-finals and finals are all raced on the same night.
Rosemond’s best finish of 16th place in a recent World Cup event in The Hague is also the best-ever performance by an Australian female.
Olympic coach, Ann Zhang, says her young protégé has enormous potential.
“Considering she has only had six months of serious training after a knee reconstruction, her effort in the Netherlands was outstanding,” Zhang said.
Also on Day 8 - medals will be decided in women’s alpine skiing combined, women’s cross country 4x 5km relay, women’s 10km and men’s 12.5km biathlon pursuits, men’s 1000m speed skating, large hill ski jumping and the men’s 1000m short track.