05 August 2016
By Australian Sports Commission Chair John Wylie:
I recently visited the AIS European Training Centre, a beautiful location on the edge of Lake Varese and at the base of the Italian Alps. More marvellous and inspiring than the backdrop was what I witnessed on the water.
Australia’s Olympic and Paralympic rowers were training three times a day, covering kilometre after kilometre. Set against this breathtaking landscape, the athletes were focused and pushing their limits. They were living an almost monastic existence in the pursuit of sporting excellence.
It reinforced that every athlete is part of a team, even those who compete in individual events. Coaches, specialists, sports scientists, medical staff, training partners, managers and administrators were there, supporting every athlete. Of course, there are also family and friends.
What is it about athletes that inspires so many to be part of their team? It is to share their ambition, to help them be their very best.
Some 420 dedicated athletes will represent Australia in Rio in the Olympic Games. Not all of them head to Brazil capable of winning gold, but every one of them will be seeking personal best performances. These performances may be great enough for a gold medal, they may put them on a podium, they may qualify them for a final or they may simply be a personal best.
No matter the result, Australians know that when our athletes pull on the green and gold in these next few weeks, they'll give it absolutely everything they've got. They'll do their country proud.
The Australian Sports Commission and the AIS are likewise proud, on behalf of all Australians, to be part of our athletes' teams, helping them to achieve their dreams in Rio and beyond.
We've directly invested $340 million of taxpayer money in Olympic sports and athletes over the past four years. The money is vital, but many other less tangible changes driven by the ASC since the 2012 London Olympics are making an equally important difference for our athletes.
Most significant has been a profound change in culture in many of our sports, no better example than our swim team. Its outstanding leadership team, installed after London, has driven a culture of teamwork and trust. Its leadership is values-based not rules-based. These simple and time-honoured principles, harnessed to the sport's amazing history, traditions and talent base, make a very powerful force indeed.
Leadership and culture change starts at the top and that's the reason the ASC has placed a lot of emphasis on governance reform and improvement over the last four years. It's been great to see so many sports step up to the challenge set for them by the ASC. We've achieved a lot as a sector.
For our part, we believe in supporting our athletes by setting high aspirational goals for achievement and through a high-performance system that is unafraid to change, improve and continually measure itself against world-best standards. We'll continue to drive these values and culture after Rio.
On the eve of the Rio Olympics, we acknowledge the teamwork and contribution of all those in our national high performance sports system - coaches, administrators, officials, volunteers, sport science and medicine. The AIS is proud to have 35 staff members as part of the Australian Olympic team.
Collaboration has been a key to success and must be a continued focus of our way forward. We are one team, all representing Australia’s interests.
The Australian Sports Commission wishes Australia’s athletes all the very best for their big moments ahead. We know all of you will be striving to give your very best, and that is the ultimate definition of success.