The 2000 Sydney Olympic Games were a defining moment in Australian sporting history.
- QAS is on the runway for 11 years to overhaul the high-performance sports system
- The two-year scholarship program QAS will launch later this year will help future Australian coaches
- Sports that are not yet on the Olympic agenda will also be identified to attract more youth appeal
Maybe it’s Cathy Freeman’s 400m win or the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay – 16 iconic gold medal moments make Sydney “the best Olympics ever”.
With a population of only 18.2 million people at the time, Australia produced 58 medals, a feat no other developing country had done before or since.
Over the past four Olympic games, Australia’s position in medal tally has dropped significantly, dropping to 10th in Rio 2016.
That The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed Brisbane as the preferred host for the games in 2032, giving the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) an 11-year runway for overhauling the high-performance sports system.
Match plan for Brisbane 2032
Chelsea Warr, former UK Sport performance director, was a key figure behind Great Britain’s success in London 2012 and Rio 2016.
“In 1996, [Great Britain was] 36 in the medal table and by the time London 2012 rolled over and then to Rio 2016, [we were] second in the medals table, “he said.
QAS have appointed Ms Warr to increase Australia’s chances of winning a medal for Brisbane 2032.
“The opportunity to host and host the Olympics at home that we all know is just transformational – not just for the country but for the nation – and you know the eyes of the world are going to see it,” he said.
Ms Warr has gathered the best minds in high-performance sports to develop a game plan for the next 11 years.
“If we look at the profile of Rio medalists from the Australian team, 75 percent of them are already in the top 10 in the world four years before Rio,” he said.
“We have to be really ready in 2028 for real if we are going to have a very good home game in 2032.”
Promising young talent
Athletes like skateboarder Haylie Powell have been identified as promising young talent.
At the age of 15, Powell may be able to make his sporting debut at the Tokyo games later this year.
The young Olympic coach will turn 26 in 2032 and said “that would be really cool because [Brisbane is] only an hour from my house “.
The optimal age for winning a medal varies from sport to sport and Ms Warr said targeting has been a big focus.
“How old do you really need to be to develop in time, in the time frame to become a world beater by 2032?” she poses.
Jordan Bartley’s wheelchair basketball is 26 years old but still managed to play well into his late 30s.
“It’s great when you think about it – there’s nothing like playing on your land in front of your family and friends,” he said.
But athletes are only the first step in the high-performance puzzle.
Need a strong mentor
QAS will launch a two-year scholarship program later this year to begin nurturing future Australian coaches.
Benn Lees has coached elite water polo in Australia for nearly 30 years, but fears rising young coaches may fail in the current system.
“This is something we’ve identified at the state level in Queensland that we need to really work on developing a strong mentor program,” he said.
That’s how Mr Lees learned his craft in the early days, based at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra.
QAS also seeks to find the next generation of sports practitioners, who have the best minds in sports medicine and science, to optimize athlete development and performance.
“They all work together like a Formula 1 team around athletes and coaches to enable them to optimize their performance,” said Warr.
Identify early talent
QAS also hires professional Australian beach volleyball player and last year’s Olympic gold medalist Natalie Cook as its director of success and elite partnerships.
Cook was born and raised in north Queensland and has toured the region with Ms Warr, as part of QAS’s early talent identification program.
Take a look at a new sport
QAS is also working to identify sports that are not already on the Olympic agenda, with the IOC likely to change its portfolio again, before 2032.
Skateboarding, BMX freestyle and surfing are some of the new sports that will debut in Tokyo.
“What we’re seeing is the introduction of a lot of what they call action sports … that try and engage more youth appeal to the Olympics going forward,” said Warr.
He says the difficulty is adapting to this new sport, which historically has developed athletes through organic self-development models.
“We are watching the Youth Olympics quite closely to see what might happen, so for example we know that high diving may be one of the upcoming sports in the future,” said Warr.