With just under 150 days to go until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in July, the ACT Government has announced it will provide $300,000 to support Australian Olympians and Paralympians.
Minister for Sport Yvette Berry said the government would give $200,000 to the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and Paralympics Australia 2020 Tokyo Team Appeals, while $100,000 will be used to set up training grants for ACT athletes.
“It is exciting for the ACT Government to be able to support our local athletes in particular, but also supporting Australians to get over to the Olympic Games and represent our country,” she said.
“In the ACT we are very lucky that we have close contact with our athletes because they live in our town and live as our neighbours, so we know them all very well and intimately. We are always proud to support them.”
Australia is gearing up to send its biggest team to the Olympics since Sydney 2000, with athletes participating across 42 to 44 disciplines, AOC CEO Matt Carroll said.
“Almost 500 Australians will be selected for the team with the support of the ACT Government, not just their financial support but also their support over the years through the Institute of Sport and through the Olympics Unleashed program,” he said.
“We are very grateful for that work and the great athletes that come from the ACT.”
The Olympics Unleashed program is designed to inspire school children by bringing 30 Olympic athletes into the classrooms of 135 schools around the ACT.
Thanks to racewalker Beki Smith for coming along to chat with our Local Sporting Champions about training hard, managing stress, and what it feels like when your partner proposes marriage at the end of an Olympic event ? pic.twitter.com/HRQQsL7RXh
— Andrew Leigh (@ALeighMP) December 10, 2019
It is the support of the ACT Government through initiatives and funding like this that has helped athletes get to where they are today, said former Olympic field hockey player Louise Dobson.
“From an athlete’s perspective we are super grateful for the support and help,” she said.
“It takes a whole team of support staff and administrators on the ground, before and during the Olympic periods, and those funds will go towards making sure we are prepared as best as possible in all aspects of training and competing.”
The funding boost provided by the ACT Government will go towards helping athletes prepare for the upcoming games. Athletes like Australian race walker Beki Smith.
“It is just a boost for athletes and their confidence knowing that we are supported funding wise to travel overseas,” she said.
“Many of us still need to work full-time or part-time and train full-time so it just assists in making sure that we do not have to be too concerned about that and can focus on training and performing to the best of our ability.”
— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) February 27, 2020
While the status of the Olympics is the elephant in the room, with talk of cancelling the event because of the coronavirus, Mr Carroll said the AOC has been consulting with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Health to make sure the athletes are safe.
“We are getting a lot of reassurance and support from the Australian Government,” he said.
“From our perspective, the advice from the World Health Organisation is that there is no need to consider disruption to the games or cancellation.
“We are certainly working with our sports where they are competing. Training camps and Olympic qualifiers were moved when they had to be moved, so we are looking after our athletes.”
The Chinese committee has moved its team out of China so they will not be caught up in any quarantine period, while Japan has begun closing schools as a precaution to avoid spreading the highly contagious virus.
Mr Smith says that the athletes should continue to focus on their training and avoid being distracted by speculation or potential decisions regarding the games.
“The message to Olympians, and would-be Olympians, is to train hard, stay focused and we will worry about these things.”