The countdown to the Paris Games has got very real for a handful of aspiring Olympians as they celebrated one year to go to the opening ceremony.
Flanked by political heavyweights, Australian Olympic Committee top brass and sporting luminaries at Qantas’ Sydney headquarters, ‘AllezAus’ was officially launched on Wednesday as the rallying cry for a team hoping to build on the success of the Tokyo Games.
For the likes of canoe slalom star Jess Fox and fellow Tokyo gold medallist rower Lucy Stephan, the celebration marked another step on a familiar road.
But it was the new brigade of Australian Olympian that was put in the spotlight, with 13-year-old skateboarder Chloe Covell, surfer Molly Picklum and breaking hopeful Rachael Gunn a vivid representation of the future of the movement.
Gunn and her breaking team put on an exhibition of what fans can expect when the sport makes its Games debut in Paris, while the pint-sized Covell won the hearts of the crowd.
“Hopefully I can qualify and compete,” said Covell, who has only just returned from claiming a gold and a bronze at the X-Games in California.
“I remember watching in Tokyo, I had the day off school to watch it, luckily dad let me, I had to beg him though.”
Chef de Mission Anna Meares, who described her role as “my dream job”, only recently returned from Paris and is confident everything remains on track to deliver a memorable Games.
“The two weeks that I spent with them (Paris organisers), I get the same feeling that the Games are going to be on time, they’re very proud to showcase their city, their nation,” Meares said.
While Australia hope to send a team of around 450 athletes to Paris, no individuals have booked their tickets just yet, the men’s rugby sevens team – who had Maurice Longbottom present at today’s ceremony – have secured a start.
Qualifiers are on in earnest across a host of sports around the globe so for the likes of Fox, the next few months are critical in terms of preparation and performance.
Fox can qualify a quota spot for Australia at the world championships in September, the event to be held on the same course she won a silver medal in her Olympic debut in 2012.
“Some good memories on that course,” Fox said.
“There’s one quota per event per country – it’s very cut throat compared to a world championships where you’ve got three per event.”
(Australian Associated Press)