With today marking the 50 day countdown to the official opening of the 2016 Rio Olympics Games, we reflect on the WA journey so far.
To date, 10 Western Australian athletes have earned official selection onto the Australian Olympic Team for Rio, whilst over the course of the next few weeks the realisation of many more dreams will be achieved, set against the reality for others that the journey ends.
Flatwater sprint canoe saw WA register its first selected athletes, after a selection process combining selection events in Adelaide and Perth – completed in March, with three WA athletes named on the team.
secured the single spot available in the men’s kayak 200m discipline, whilst the 1000m squad of seven athletes, included Gold Coast based West Aussie Daniel Bowker
Arguably the most remarkable selection on the flatwater team went to the C2 1000m duo of 49 year-old Martin Marinov and 36 year-old Western Australian Ferenc Szekszardi
. The pair only committed to contesting selection trials, weeks out from the first selection event, and were buoyed when they finished a close second in Adelaide, before capturing their selection with a national championship and subsequent race-off win in Perth.
Of the selected WA trio, only Bird has tasted Olympic action before, when he and fellow WAIS athlete Jesse Phillips finished sixth in the final of the K2 200m in London, whilst for Szekszardi and Bowker, Rio will be a new experience all together.
"It's exciting and a big relief," Bowker said at the time of selection. "It's been eight plus years of work that has led to this. I moved interstate back in 2013 to be surrounded by the best squad in Australia and try to get Olympic selection.
"Personally it's awesome to be selected for my first Olympic Team but the job's only half done."
In April, Kim Mickle
was one of 28 track and field athletes selected onto the Australian Olympic Team, despite the Commonwealth champion being sidelined with a shoulder injury. Mickle’s 2015 form had seen her already throw the required A-Qualifying standard needed for automatic nomination, with the only hurdle now ahead of her making a second Olympic appearance, the need to prove fitness ahead of August’s Games.
Mickle underwent a shoulder reconstruction procedure after last year’s IAAF World Championships in China, but is currently on track to prove fitness and take her spot in Rio.
There was disappointment however, for pole vaulter Liz Parnov, who suffered a freak accident in training at the WAIS HPSC in April, in which she injured her right leg, preventing her from being fit in time to chase qualification for a second Olympic appearance of her own.
A highly successful Australian Swimming Championships in Adelaide saw three West Aussies add their name for Rio, when Blair Evans
, Tamsin Cook
and Brianna Throssell
all met the selection criteria.
Evans won a national championship in the women’s 400m IM, before Cook (second in the 400m free) and Throssell (second in the 200m fly) edged under the A-Qualifying time to ensure they would be part of an Australian Dolphins team tipped to achieve great success in Brazil.
Cook and Throssell will make their Olympic debuts, whilst for Evans, Rio represents a remarkable second Olympics, after over-coming a series of injuries that had all but ended her international ambitions. To put in context, Rio will be the 25 year-old’s first senior team, since winning silver in the 4x200m relay in London.
Western Australia’s eighth officially selected athlete, in 470 sailor Carrie Smith
continued in Evans’ incredible theme of triumph over adversity.
21 year-old Smith, suffered life-threatening complications from a routine day surgery, which kept her out of competition and training for such an extended time, that hopes of Rio seemed all but gone.
Off limited preparation however, she and crewmate Jaime Ryan (QLD) managed to qualify Australia a berth in the women’s 470 class for Rio at the 2015 World Championships in Israel, before continuing to impress selectors in the early part of 2016, to the point that they were officially named on the Australian Olympic Team in early May.
For Smith, it was the realisation of a life-long dream.
"It is very special to be attending our first Olympic Games. It's something I have dreamt about since I was a little kid, receiving my first ever boat,” she said.
On her health struggles, Smith said it had made the achievement all the more special.
"It honestly makes me extremely proud that I can look back at that horrible time and see the hard work and determination pay off. It would’ve been easy to give in but here we are and I'm only looking forward. Happy, healthy and sailing hard,” she said.
South African born, Bunbury raised triathlete Ryan Bailie
earned his spot for Rio when he finished fourth at a WTS event on the Gold Coast in early April. The Australian Olympic Committee ratified his nomination in May, when he was one of six triathletes listed.
Bailie – who now lives and trains in Wollongong under the tutelage of coach Jaime Turner – highlighted his mentor’s role in helping him to Rio.
"I have been with Jamie Turner now for six years and he has made us the athletes we are today and shaped us into the people we are as well, teaching us so many life lessons outside triathlon, to help set us up after our careers,” Bailie said.
"I couldn’t even do a tumble turn in the pool until I started training with JT; I would not be an Olympian in 2016 without him – so much of it has to do with him as to where I am now.”
Another Gold Coast based West Aussie, became the tenth and most recently selected Olympic athlete for the state at the end of May, when archer Taylor Worth
secured his berth for a second Olympic campaign.
Worth at 25 years of age, will enjoy a very different Olympic experience in Rio, this time as a member of a recurve team, having debuted in London, as an individual competitor.
"Rio will be a completely different Olympic experience for me,” Worth said after receiving selection.
"In London I was the sole male competitor. Now with a full team it will change the whole experience. We are all shooting really well. If we are all on song on the right day then we are capable of potentially finishing on the podium.”
The sobering side of Olympic campaigns was reminded after last month’s Australian Gymnastics Championships, when Olympians Lauren Mitchell and Emily Little both missed the sole spot available in the women’s artistic discipline, to Victorian Larrissa Miller.
Both West Aussies won national titles at the Championships in Melbourne, but with Miller also claiming gold on Floor, three didn’t go into one, with the latter preferred for the campaign in Rio.
The story that follows over the next 50 days, will combine more success and heartbreak, with up-coming selections in sports such as; Water Polo, Synchronised Swimming, Diving, Hockey, Cycling and others, set to see Western Australia’s numbers swell towards 40, as the Australian Olympic Team hovers at an anticipated 410 athletes.
The Western Australian Institute of Sport will cover all WA athletes competing in Brazil, with a #Rio2016 website soon to launch that will feature regular content, reports and results, whilst daily news will also be available via our social media accounts on Facebook
Until then, the Road to Rio will remain a compelling and captivating journey, for athletes and fans alike.