Pictured is the first group of the Australian Team, including biathletes Jill Colebourn (front, third from right) and Jeremy Flanagan (back, second from right). Pic thanks to the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia.
As reported last September, Australia’s inclusion is a boost for a number of up-and-coming and established Australian winter athletes who will get the chance to test themselves against the best Asia has to offer.
“Being able to compete at such a high level is the only way our athletes will continue to get better,” said Biathlon Australia president Grant Flanagan who was also a key figure in Oceania being added to the event.
“We hope to be sending a strong team that will no doubt get a massive amount out of what is set to be a high quality competition.”
Australia will be able to compete in all individual events which include skiing (alpine, freestyle and cross country), snowboarding, biathlon, speed skating, figure skating, luge and bobsled.
An invite was afforded to all Oceania nations after Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates wrote to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) requesting Australia be a part of the eighth edition of the event.
“The Asian Winter Games have become a very high level competition with over 30 National Olympic Committees taking part,” OCA General Director General Husain Al Musallam said.
“Oceania is a neighbouring confederation for Asia and we welcome not only Australia but all Oceania to take the opportunity to enter for the first time, as a guest but with no medals. We will evaluate the situation after that.”
Australia has continued its steady progression in winter sports in recent years and the chance for a contingent of athletes to gain more international experience can only further aid development.
The 2017 Games will feature a total of 64 events across 11 sports with Australia able to compete in all but the ice hockey and curling competitions.
The event will be hosted for the third time in Sapporo with Japan’s fourth largest city having also held the first two editions of the Games in 1986 and 1990. The rest of the competitions have been contested in China, South Korea and Kazakhstan.
Biathlon events start on Thursday 23 February with Sprint races, followed by the Pursuit on 24 February and a Mixed Relay on 25 February.