A record number of Australians have been selected onto the Australian Olympic Team heading to Sochi, Russia next month – including a group who have made their mark in the Australian Alps.
Olympic gold medallist Torah Bright from Cooma will be defending her title in the women’s half pipe and be competing with Jindabyne and Thredbo team-mates Sami Kennedy-Sim (skier cross), Russell Henshaw (slopestyle), Nicole Parks (moguls), Scott Kneller (skier cross), Callum Watson (several events), Jenny Owens (women’s ski cross), and Samantha Wells (women’s aerials).
Surpassing the past two Winter Olympic efforts where Australia was represented by 40 athletes, this time 56 skiers, snowboarders, skaters and sliders have been selected for Sochi - with a few more still to come. There will be Australians in 10 of the 15 sports in Sochi: Alpine skiing, bobsleigh, cross country, figure skating, freestyle skiing, luge, short track, skeleton, snowboard and speed skating. The freestyle skiing section is the biggest with 21 athletes followed by the Snowboard squad with 11. The team has a breathtaking spread of talent, especially those home-grown in the Snowy Mountains.
Cooma’s Torah Bright was on skis at the age of two, snowboarding at 11, and had turned professional by the time she was 14. From there she progressed to the winner’s podium at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, clutching a shiny gold medal.
Sami Kennedy-Sim who specialises in skier cross came fourth only last week after making her first World Cup.
Slopestyle specialist Russell Henshaw is regarded as a serious medal chance and has been on the podium in third place twice this northern winter.
Nicole Parks (moguls) is in her first Olympics and should make the finals.
Scott Kneller (skier cross) is recovering from some back injuries and although he has been down on form he could be a serious contender.
Four of the Snowy Mountains locals selected – Jenny Owens, Samantha Wells, Scott Kneller and Sami Kennedy-Sims – are all members of the Southern Alps Ski Club.
The club was formed in 1935 and has lodges in Charlotte Pass, Perisher and Thredbo.
Both Jenny and Samantha have progressed through the club’s training programs since they were 8-years-old.