Australia’s participation and success at the Olympic Winter Games is remarkable. The Australian climate, landscape and the distance away from the traditional home of winter sports in Europe and North America has not frozen the Australian competitive spirit for over 75 years.
Australia’s representation in the Olympic Winter Games dates back to 1936 at Garmisch- Partenkirchen in Germany, and since that time, the country has sent a Team to all Winter Olympics except for the post-World War II Games in St Moritz, Switzerland in 1948.
Australia has been represented by just over 200 Winter Olympians and now boasts five gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze medals from nine athletes. But the medals are only a small part of the story. Amazingly Colin Coates represented at six Games in Speed Skating from 1968 – 1988. Aerial skiing legend Jacqui Cooper was selected for five from 1994 – 2010. And Paul Naracott is Australia’s only Winter and Summer Olympian from Athletics in 1984 to Bobsleigh in 1992.
The podium streak dates back to Lillehammer in 1994 and that famous Short Track Speed Skating 5000m relay bronze to Steven Bradbury, Kieran Hansen, Andrew Murtha and Richard Nizielski. Zali Steggall then showed the world that Australians can ski, with Slalom bronze at Nagano 1998.
In 2002 the gold rush began and gained global media attention. Bradbury won Australia’s first gold with an unforgettable ‘last man standing’ in a dramatic 1000m Short Track final at Salt Lake City. Days later Alisa Camplin flew and twisted her way to Aerials gold, and in to the hearts of the nation.
At Torino 2006, Dale Begg-Smith blitzed the Moguls competition and Camplin again delivered on the biggest stage with Aerials bronze.
Vancouver 2010 was Australia’s first Olympic Team of gender equality (20 men/ 20 women) and our most successful. In a Halfpipe just outside Vancouver Torah Bright won Australia’s first Snowboard gold and Lydia Lassila bounced back from a horrible injury at the 2006 Olympics to win the Aerials gold. Begg-Smith also won silver on the Moguls hill near where he learnt to ski.
The 2014 Australian Olympic Team is expected to be the biggest yet and will boast more medal and top-8 chances than ever before. We can’t wait for the next chapter to unfold!
1936 - Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Kenneth Kennedy was Australia’s first Winter Olympic representative, competing in the long track Speed Skating events in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Kennedy finished 29th out of a field of 36 in the 500 metres, and placed 33rd in both the 1500m and the 5000m.
1952 - Oslo, Norway
No Games were held in 1940 or 1944 due to the Second World War, and Australia did not send a team to the 1948 Games in St Moritz. But in 1952, in Oslo, nine athletes marched under the Australian flag – three in Alpine Skiing, two in Cross Country, three in Figure Skating and one in Speed Skating. One of the figure skaters was Gweneth Molony, whose daughter, Joanne Henke, also represented Australia, in Alpine Skiing in the 1976 Games in Innsbruck, Austria.
1956 - Cortina, Italy; 1960 - Squaw Valley, USA
In 1956, in Cortina, Italy, the team size was ten, with Christine Davy the first woman to represent Australia in Alpine Skiing. The following Games, held in Squaw Valley, saw a 31-member team, thanks to the presence of the only Ice Hockey team Australian has ever fielded. The 1960 Games also saw the only Australian to compete in the Nordic Combined discipline, with Hal Nerdal finishing 31st in the dual Cross Country Skiing and Ski Jumping event.
1964 - Innsbruck, Austria; 1968 - Grenoble, France
The 1964 Innsbruck Olympics were a tragedy for the Australian team, with 17-year-old Victorian alpine skier Ross Milne killed in practice for the Downhill event. With his close friend and fellow downhill racer Peter Brockhoff pulling out of the Games, just four Australians competed, all in Alpine Skiing. Inspired by the fate of his brother, Malcolm fought his way into the team for the next Games, in Grenoble, the sole Australian alpine skier. Aged 19, he finished 24th in the Downhill and the Slalom, the best results ever recorded by an Australian skier at the time, the Slalom placing still the best by any Australian male. Grenoble was also the first of six Games for speed skater Colin Coates.
1972 - Sapporo, Japan; 1976 - Innsbruck, Austria; 1980 - Lake Placid, USA
At the 1972 Games in Sapporo, Japan, Milne was one of just four team members, but at the following Games, the Team had started to grow again, eight members marching in the opening ceremony in 1976 in Innsbruck, then ten in Lake Placid, USA, in 1980. Lake Placid saw Australia’s first and – until Torino – only female Cross Country competitor, Colleen Bolton.
1984 - Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
The Sarajevo Games saw the debut of Steven Lee, who finished 19th in the Downhill, and went on to represent his country in a further two Winter Olympics. The following year, Lee won Australia’s second World Cup skiing event, a Super G, in Furano, Japan. The 1984 Games also witnessed the country’s first Biathlon representative, Andrew Paul.
1988 - Calgary, Canada
In Calgary, the team had increased to 18 members, and for the first time, there were competitors in both Bobsleigh and Ice Dancing, and also athletes contesting the demonstration sports of Freestyle Moguls and Short Track Speed Skating. For Colin Coates, skating in the 10,000m, it was a sixth Winter Games.
1992 - Albertville, France
In Albertville, Diane Ogle became our first Luge competitor, Moguls and Short Track became full medal sports, and Kirstie Marshall contested the demonstration sport of Freestyle Aerials. Our Short Track relay team went to the Games as reigning world champions, but a fall in the semi-final put them out of the final and medal contention. Paul Narracott made Australian sporting history, becoming the first person to represent his country at both a Winter and Summer Games. A member of the 2-man Bobsleigh team, he had also run the 100m at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
1994 - Lillehammer, Norway
In Lillehammer, Australia finally broke through for a Winter Olympic medal, the short track relay team of Steven Bradbury, Kieran Hansen, Richard Nizielski and Andrew Murtha claiming bronze behind Italy and the USA. The 27-member team also produced four other top ten placings – sixth to Kirstie Marshall in aerials, eighth to Kerryn Rim in the 15km biathlon, and eighth to Steven Bradbury and 10th to Richard Nizielski in 500m short track. For Chef de Mission Geoff Henke, it was a sixth and final Olympic Winter Games.
1998 - Nagano, Japan
Australia went to the Nagano Games with more realistic medal hopes than ever before. Freestyle skiers Kirstie Marshall and Jacqui Cooper were among the favourites for Aerial Skiing gold, but were unable to produce the goods on the day, missing the final. But Zali Steggall, skiing in her third Olympics, fulfilled Australia’s long-cherished dream of an individual Winter Games medal, taking the bronze in Slalom with a superb performance under immense pressure. Joanne Carter, just 17 and in her first Olympic Games, placed 12th in the Figure Skating, the best result by an Australian in the Ladies competition, and when field size was taken into account, the best by any Australian skater.
2002 - Salt Lake City, USA
The Salt Lake Winter Games will go down in the annals of Australian sporting history. In spite of losing the country’s best medal hope, Jacqui Cooper, to injury at the start of the Games, the 2002 team left Utah with two gold medals. The country’s very first gold went to Short Track Speed Skater Steven Bradbury in bizarre circumstances, the four-time Olympian the last man standing on the final bend of the 1000m. Two days later aerial skier Alisa Camplin became the first Australian woman to win a gold medal and the first Australian to win a skiing gold medal. For a short but glorious period, Australia led Austria on the medal tally (and ended the Games with the same number of gold medals). Several other top ten and Australian-best performances were recorded by the team, Jenny Owens skiing to ninth place in the Super Combined and Craig Branch posting a 27th placing in the Super G. Alice Jones was 27th in the women’s Downhill, an equal best effort for Australia, and Anthony Liu achieved another equal best with 10th place in the men’s Figure Skating. Other top ten results came from Lydia Ierodiaconou with eighth in the women’s Aerials and Steven Bradbury with 10th in the new event of men’s 1500m individual short track.
2006 - Torino, Italy
Australia sent its largest ever team of 40 athletes to Torino in 2006, competing across 10 sports. Dale Begg-Smith went into the Games ranked the world number one in men's Mogul Skiing and he produced his best when it mattered most, blazing the tough field and winning gold for Australia. The women's Aerial Skiing was the scene of highs and lows for the Australian team. Alisa Camplin won a remarkable bronze, her second Olympic medal but there was a devastating injury to teammate Lydia Lassila.
There were a number of other outstanding performances that built the growing reputation of Australia as a competitive winter sports nation. Torah Bright’s fifth in Snowboard Halfpipe, Damon Hayler’s seventh in Snowboard Cross, the sixth placing of the Short Track Relay team and the eighth of Jacqui Cooper in women’s Aerials were all brilliant. Cooper’s extraordinary world record in aerials qualifying cemented her amongst the world’s best ever.
2010 – Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver 2010 was Australia’s first Olympic Team of gender equality (20 men/ 20 women) and our most successful. In the Halfpipe just outside Vancouver Torah Bright won Australia’s first Snowboard gold and Lydia Lassila bounced back from her horrible injury at the 2006 Olympics to win the Aerials gold. Begg-Smith also won silver on the Moguls hill near where he learnt to ski. A sensational effort after an injury impacted preparation. There was also a string of top ten performances. Jacqui Cooper showed her champion qualities to place fifth in the Aerials, Tatiana Borodulina was seventh in the 1000m Short Track. Holly Crawford was eighth in the women’s Halfpipe, Emma Lincoln-Smith was tenth in the Skeleton and Damon Hayler was also tenth in Snowboard Cross.