Australia’s extraordinary run of success in aerial skiing looks set to be followed by a fallow period with retirements, no fulltime development program and a lack of facilities hindering progress.
Former gold medal-winning aerial skier and Australian team high performance manager Alisa Camplin admitted on Tuesday some changes were required if the country was to keep competing at the highest level.
Australia has won five Olympic medals in the sport – including two gold – in a run that started in 2002 and went through to the Sochi Games of 2014.
But there were no medals in PyeongChang and with another two-time Games medallist in Lydia Lassila retiring and men’s 2014 silver medallist David Morris aged 33, the glory days may be coming to an end.
“We haven’t been able to run a fulltime development program in Australia,” Camplin said.
“Funding has focused on our top program over the last four years. Without a doubt we need to accelerate the talent.”
There are no Australian men coming into the sport after Morris while there are limited expectations with female jumpers behind this year’s other Olympic aerialists Danielle Scott, Laura Peel and Sam Wells.
“Without a doubt for me personally and within the team there’s some heartbreak for not coming away with a medal in aerials,” Camplin said.
“… We’ve made it look so easy in the past but you know how complex the sport is.”
Camplin said part of the problem was not having an outdoor training facility for freestyle athletes in Australia.
Two state governments have twice committed to a water facility and funding was made available but in both instances the projects were subsequently pulled.
“As an aerial skier you can see that the indoor water ramp that Belarus has, has really changed the game,” she said.
“The Eastern European athletes are just so much more prepared now.”
The region dominated the aerials competition at the Games with three of the top four men’s results and two of the top four women’s performances coming out of Eastern Europe.