Thursday, 25 February 2010

Two winter Olympic golds for Australia!!

There will much written in the next few days about the significance of Australia winning two gold medals at the Winter Olympics, including the most recent effort by young freestyle skier Lydia Lassila.
It's a medal in an event that should make Australians extremely proud and is set to send shockwaves through the sport (a big claim I know but hey, it's already making headline news in San Diego, of all places).
I interviewed Lydia back when she had a different surname and was trailing in public profile behind Alisa Camplin, Jacqui Cooper and Kirstie Marshall (details on them and other freestyle Australian Winter Olympians here).
Camplin was the golden girl of the time and Lydia the young up-and-comer, so it's fantastic to see her taking the top spot in the sport.  
I read a few of the Facebook status updates that flickered through on the Vancouver 2010 website and, aside from the excitement, was struck by comments by a few Aussies along the lines of, 'Australia doesn't even have snow and we won a medal'. Um, obviously these people have never been to southern New South Wales, Victoria or Tasmania if they're under the impression there is no snow in Oz.
I understand the more basic meaning of the statement, that Australia does not have the same levels of snow, mountains of high altitude or length of season experienced in other countries. But it's sadly an often-held misunderstanding that our country has no snow at all.
Newsflash: the whole of Australia is not desert. Google 'Australia percent desert' and you see a whole range of figures, various websites claiming from 33% to 70% of the country is desert/semi-arid (though I trust Yahoo Answers and Wikianswers even less than I believe in UFOs).
But the rest of Australia experiences varying climates, so it makes sense than in the colder southeast, where the mountains can top 2200 metres, a good season can generate a 1-2m snowbase and often quality powder to go with it.
And while the crowds are sometimes ridiculous and lift ticket prices exorbitant, I wish more Europeans and Americans would be able to visit us during a good season, help give the Aussie snowsports industry a lift and prove that when we win a gold medal in the Winter Games, it's not always due to a last-minute pile-up, Steven Bradbury fashion.   

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