The countdown is on - 500 days to Rio!

by staff

The first Olympic Games in South America are now only 500 days away and the prospect of representing Australia in Rio de Janeiro is what drives athletes all around the country every day in training.

At present over 1200 athletes are considered to be in contention for the final Team.

Leading this Australian Team in Rio de Janeiro will be Sydney 2000 modern pentathlete Kitty Chiller. Chiller has been travelling the country since November meeting around 1000 athletes and officials for the IGNITE the Dream series, along with motivating maestro and coach Laurie Lawrence, Olympic legends from all eras and AOC staff.

“The IGNITE roadshow has shown us just how dedicated Australia’s athletes are to wearing the green and gold in 2016 and how much they love learning about Australia’s rich Olympic history,” Chiller said.

“It is not easy to be the best in the world but we know that with a strong team culture in Rio athletes will adapt well to the challenges and reach their potential in competition. Just as importantly we want all athletes and officials to have a ‘life best experience’.

“With the performance focussed environment that we will create for our athletes in Rio, I am confident that we can mix it with the best in the world.”

Golf and Rugby Sevens are two new exciting additions to the program for the Rio 2016 Games.

“Rugby Sevens inclusion in the Olympics has impacted our sport a great deal - not only in Australia but all over the world,” Sharni Williams, captain of the world no.2 Australian women’s team, said. “Women’s Rugby Sevens, for example, is now classed as one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

“In Australia, it is a very exciting time for the sport. The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has implemented its Pathway to Gold program while the Australian Girls Sevens team won the Gold Medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing last year.

“The ARU centralised the Rugby Sevens Men’s and Women’s program in January 2014, enabling us to prepare properly and train as a professional squad.”

The Women’s Rugby Sevens squad is benefiting from Direct Athlete Funding from the Australian Olympic Committee via the adidas Medal Incentive Funding. Ten players from the 2015 squad were recently paid $10,000 each for their bronze medal performance in their 2014 benchmark event. Today Williams accepted a cheque for $100,000 on behalf of her Team.

Players from the silver medal winning squad from the recent 2015 benchmark event are due to receive $13,400 each in early 2016. This means several players will be paid $23,400 to help with their Rio preparations. Across 370 athlete payments so far this quadrennial (2013-2016) $3.6 million has been paid, with a budget of $5.1 million for the quad.

Shannon Parry is so thankful for the funding assistance.

“I speak on behalf of the entire squad when I say that we are extremely grateful for the support adidas has given the Australian Women’s Sevens side through the Medal Incentive Funding initiative,” Parry said.

“The funding plays an important part in allowing us to focus on our career as elite athletes as we strive for qualification for Rio 2016. We have a lot of hard work to do before we can even think of pulling on the green and gold in Rio – and this funding will assist greatly with our preparations.”

While the adidas funding is making a big difference to athlete preparation, it is what they provide athletes to wear at the Games that adidas are particularly proud of. General Manager of adidas Pacific, Steve Castledine explained.

“We’re extremely excited about the new uniforms we’re supplying Australian athletes for Rio in 2016, which will feature the latest in garment technology and innovation, while making a youthful and forward thinking statement.”

It is a crucial time for Australia to secure places on the start line and athletes to start meeting selection criteria. To date places have been earned across Equestrian, Sailing and Shooting. It is anticipated the 2016 Australian Olympic Team will reach 470 athletes across 40 disciplines.

This dedication of Australia’s Rio hopefuls is being matched by the urgency of construction workers and organisers in Brazil. The Olympic Village is nearing completion, Olympic Park is taking shape and great progress has been made to get the massive project back on schedule.

Australian Olympic Committee Secretary-General Fiona de Jong returned from a meeting of Olympic Committees in Rio just last week and she was impressed by the progress she saw.

“Much progress has been made with the venue readiness, particularly in the Deodoro zone,” de Jong said.

“By all accounts, I’m confident it will be a vibrant, playful environment for our 2016 Olympians to call home during their Olympic Games. There’s no doubt the excitement is beginning to mount in the city and they will welcome the world to the Games in their own Brazilian way and are looking to inject the local culture on these Games.”

Coinciding with 500 days to Rio, Slater & Gordon was announced as a new sponsor of the Australian Olympic Team. The Australian firm becomes the first Official Law Firm of an Australian Olympic Team and they have signed until after the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Their considerable contribution incorporates legal support services for athletes and officials and a financial contribution to help prepare and send athletes to the Olympic Games, Olympic Winter Games and Youth Olympic Games.