Our elite athletes go for gold

6 February 2014

A record-equalling four University of Sydney Olympians from the University's Sport and Fitness (SUSF) Elite Athlete program will be attempting to jump, ski, dance and bobsleigh their way to gold at the Sochi Winter Olympics this month.

Current student Lavinia Chrystal and alumni Danielle O'Brien, Astrid Radjenovic and Aimee Watson will make up part of the 60-strong Australian team - our largest Winter Olympic squad ever to compete at the games.

Chrystal, a Master of Management student, who will make her Olympic debut in Slalom and Giant Slalom Alpine Skiing events, said she couldn't wait to compete against the best in the world.

"I've dreamt about going to the Olympics for such a long time, so the fact that my dreams are coming true is really amazing," Chrystal told the Australian Olympic Committee from her training base in Austria.

Chrystal's selection looked unlikely after she suffered a crushed knee and fractured leg at the Australian Winter University Games in September 2011. "Alpine has the most competitors of any sport at the Games, so my goal is a top 30 to 40 result in each discipline," she said.

Former Commerce student O'Brien and dance partner Gregory Merriman, both competing at their first Games, will become only the second Australian pair to compete in Ice Dancing at the Olympics.

The pair are have been competing together for more than 15 years and hold six Australian Ice Dance Championships - the most in Australian history.

Cross-country skier Watson, a former Veterinary Science student, will compete in three events in her Olympics debut: Ladies' 15km Skiathlon, Ladies' 10km Classic and the Ladies' 30km Mass Start Free.

Watson said she was excited and thankful for the support she had already received. "I am relieved that the hard work - not only by me but the many people who have supported me - has paid off," she told the Australian Olympic Committee.

Radjenovic, B Veterinary Science (2006), will compete in her third consecutive Winter Olympics in the Womens' Bobsleigh, teaming up with former Olympic sprinter Jana Pittman.

Qualifying for Sochi after finishing 12th in January's Bobsleigh World Cup in Switzerland, Radjenovic will be looking to improve on her previous Olympic results, which include 19th in Vancouver in 2010 and 14th in Torino in 2006.

The four Olympians are current and previous scholarship holders with the SUSF Elite Athlete program, which provides students with financial, academic and athletic support.

SUSF Elite Athlete Program Manager, Leonie Lum said it was a tremendous achievement for the four girls to be selected to represent Australia in Sochi.

"The selection of these athletes, both past and present scholarship holders, showcases the diversity of the SUSF Elite Athlete Program," she said. "Athletes from over 35 different sports are represented in the Program and it is uplifting to see our athletes striving for excellence and reaching their goals in their sport, tertiary studies and beyond."

In related news, former SUSF scholarship holder Toby Kane will be hoping to compete at his second Paralympic Winter Games, when the Australian squad is announced later this month.

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games will take place in Sochi, Russia, from Friday February 7 until Sunday February 23. The Paralympic Winter Games will be held in Sochi, from March 7 to March 16.

Events to watch:

8 February Ladies 15km Skiathlon

9 February Team Ice Dance Free Dance

13 February Ladies 10km Skiathlon

18 February Women's Giant Slalom; Women's Bobsleigh Heats 1-4

21 February Women's Slalom

22 February Ladies 30km Mass Start Free