Sochi Winter Olympics: Gold ambition a leap of faith
Steps to speed skating.So now to the big question … Was it all worth it?
Upwards of $500,000 – not the $1 million, as claimed by others – was invested into Alex ”Chumpy” Pullin in the past four years in the pursuit of Olympic gold in the sport of snowboard cross, and he didn’t get as far as the quarter-finals.
Is that enough bang for our buck?
”I’d say about 65 per cent of what Chumpy has received are taxpayer funds,” said Olympic Winter Institute of Australia boss Geoff Lipshut. ”But this isn’t cash. This is ‘program operations’. We take the view that if you’re trying to get someone to be the best, $150,000 roughly a year is what it costs. And that’s doing it lean.
”We did not achieve our KPI [key performance indicator] for year four, and that was a medal at these Games. No one is particularly happy about that.”
At the medal party in Rosa Khutor for men’s aerial freestyle silver medallist Dave Morris on Tuesday night, Pullin and fellow snowboard cross competitor Cam Bolton stood in the bar area and watched replays of that day’s competition.
Bolton was sporting a cast on his wrist, which had been broken after crashing in his semi-final. It was the not-so-subtle reminder of how his sport is as easy to win as Powerball, especially when it’s held in rain and fog.
While upset at failing to win the gold medal, Pullin was philosophical about what had transpired on the mountain a few hours earlier.
Others might question the validity of his sport, but then he asks this question: If you’re chasing fame and fortune as an Australian athlete, why would you choose a niche sport like snowboard cross?
”We’re the ones who chase the dream,” Pullin said. ”We do it for the pure love of the sport. I grew up on top of a ski shop in Mansfield. We don’t do it for everything that might come with it. We don’t it for the money, we don’t do it for the chicks.”
It’s the matter of money, though, that has caused apparent division in the team.
The father of Pullin’s snowboarding teammate, Belle Brockhoff, fired off an angry, rambling email to reporters on the eve of the men’s event, claiming that Pullin had received $1 million in funding while his daughter had received just $38,000.
”The timing of it was disgraceful,” said Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates. ”It was very unfair.”
Brockhoff’s figures were also wildly inaccurate, according to Lipshut. ”Absolutely fanciful,” he said. ”It would be about $500,000 plus over the four years, which in winter institute terms is quite a lot of money. But Chumpy is a mid-20s athlete, a double world champion. The better you are, the more support you receive. More than $38,000 has been spent on Belle Brockhoff. Her funding is commensurate with where she is.”
Funding for both winter and summer athletes is a murky, complex business with support coming from OWIA, NSW and Victorian institutes of sports, and the AOC.
The AOC has invested $10 million over the past four years into winter athletes, none of which is taxpayer-funded.
While Pullin did not win the gold as widely tipped and expected – meaning Australia is likely to leave the Winter Games without a gold medal for the first time since Nagano in 1998 – the team has reached Coates’ prediction of three medals.
Just as in other sports, there are always complaints about the haves and have-nots.
Lipshut compared the complaints and meddling of the likes of Bruce Brockhoff and the parents of other snowboarders to that of ”tennis parents”.
”They are far-fetched allegations,” he said. ”The casualties are the athletes. Whatever Bruce Brockhoff’s issues are, clearly they are not those of Belle. I’ve spoken to Belle and they are not her issues. He’s never spoken to me as the CEO of the OWIA. When it comes to scholarship issues, I’m the one he should speak to. He refuses to speak to me, because he doesn’t want to speak to me.”
It is becoming apparent that the splinter group ”Team Outcast” headed by Torah Bright and including Scotty James, Belle Brockhoff and Jarryd Hughes has outgrown its purpose.
Bright said the group had been ”hijacked” by aggrieved parents, and cornered Lipshut earlier in the week to explain her position.
She was not at the medal party on Tuesday night, having flown out of Russia that day. ”I spoke to Torah,” Lipshut said. ”Team Outcast is something she came up with, with another American snowboarder, and other people have latched onto it. She feels like it’s been hijacked, as she has said.
”Torah is a unique snowboarder. She is brilliant. She makes her living by being very marketable out of north America. She is not part of our system. There’s only one Torah Bright. She’s one of the greats.
”Torah has been offered scholarships from us and she doesn’t accept them. She’s in a different world. She lives in north America, she’s sponsored. She doesn’t accept assistance because she’s over the means test. Her journey is a different journey. She is disappointed all this has blown up.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.