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OLYMPIC REVIEW53 OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY that it is as much as we need. The growth of worldwide Olympic sport comes with increased needs in the field of sport development. Realistically speaking, Olympic Solidarity cannot cover everything. Just as crucial are contributions from governments and the private sector, including sponsors at national and international level. What has been your greatest challenge during your term as President of the Commission? My main mission has been to coordinate activities designed to establish and implement the process of decentralising funds and to work closely with the Continental Associations. This policy has better enabled us to make decisions leading to customised solutions of country- specific problems. Another important task is to guarantee absolute transparency in the management of financial resources allocated to each activity and to exercise effective control over their use and application for approved objectives. And what has given you the greatest satisfaction? My greatest satisfaction has been to be able to help and collaborate with the Olympic Movement for the benefit of NOCs which have a crucial role in reaching out to children and young people around the world. It really is not about my personal satisfaction, but about common achievements, which, among other things, had the following objectives: the continuing increase in funds allotted to NOCs; better support in every sense for athletes, leading to better results and universality at the Olympic Games; expansion of sports infrastructure; a significant increase in activities designed to promote the inclusion of women in sport as well as the protection of the environment, the promotion of Olympic education and the legacy of the NOCs. Whilst I feel pleased with the work we have done so far, there is no time to rest. We have to continue this successful path and plan the future steps. What does the future hold for Olympic Solidarity? Will there be changes? We started with creating the body " Olympic Solidarity" and then lifted its activities progressively to higher levels. I see a promising future for Olympic Solidarity – the leadership of the Olympic Movement is consolidated and the needs as well as the benefits of sport development are uncontested. One of Olympic Solidarity's key- objectives is to support NOCs in reaching out to young people across the world – to get them into sport, to keep them into sport and to help them in excelling. In today's world, this endeavour and the role of sport and its values are more significant than ever before. Today, it would be impossible to imagine the work of NOCs and the development of training programmes without the support of Olympic Solidarity. In future this interdependency will become even more important. I am fully convinced that my successor, while making his or her characteristic mark, will continue to reinforce this pathway to success. Following the success of the Solidarity programme for the Summer Olympic Games, for the first time in Vancouver in 2010 there will be a full Winter Olympic Solidarity scholarship programme with the same format as for the Summer Games. For Torino in 2006 there was a Solidarity programme of assistance, but for Vancouver there will be more specific help for athletes which allow them to train in better conditions two years prior to Vancouver. The programme is not about making countries who have no tradition for Winter Games start to take part so the eligibility of the NOCs for the programme depends on their delegation size in the 2006 Torino Games. The aim is to assist athletes in order to raise the level of the Winter Olympic Games without artificially changing the participation. Turn to page 54 to read four interviews with athletes from around the world, who are benefitting from Olympic Solidarity scholarships ahead of next year's Games. VANCOUVER 2010

54OLYMPIC REVIEW OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY FROMSURFTOSKELETON Former beach lifesaver Michelle Steele hails from Bundaberg in sunny Queensland, Australia. She recently received an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship, which is helping her attempts to qualify for her second Olympic Winter Games in the skeleton, as Glenn Cullen discovered: The 23- year- old won her country's first World Cup skeleton medal when she finished second in the FIBT World Cup event in Nagano in 2007. She uses the Olympic Solidarity scholarship towards the costs of training in North America where the skeleton facilities are, unsurprisingly, more advanced than those in Australia. She was previously a lifesaving athlete, coming fourth in the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships in 2004. Tell us about the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship and how it has affected your career? For me it means a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Because of full- time training and the amount of time we spend overseas it is very hard to hold down a job. While I still have to work, this takes off a lot of the pressure which means I can focus on my training in the off- season as well as when I compete. Getting the scholarship a year before your second Winter Games is good timing? It wasn't easy studying full- time ( occupational therapy) as well as trying to be a full- time athlete... this will enable me to finish my studies before Vancouver, which means a lot to me. Australia has done well in freestyle skiing, snowboarding and skating on the world's sporting stage but most people wouldn't associate the country with the sport of skeleton. How did you get into the sport given you are from sunny Queensland? I was involved in surf lifesaving and learned from my surf coach that the AIS ( Australian Institute of Sport) was interested in the having a woman participate in the Olympic Winter Games in the sport of skeleton. They were looking for women who were fast and explosive over 30 metres as that skill is useful for skeleton starts. I tried out and it just went on from there. Take us through a typical few weeks on the skeleton World Cup tour. We have three days of official training leading up to the race. Our days are made up of sliding, gym, sprint training and video review. The days are very full. We generally race on Friday or Saturday and then leave the following day for the next location and do it all over again. As a winter athlete from the southern hemisphere what other challenges do you face? Do you find that you are taken seriously on the circuit? When the programme first started we were very much seen as a novelty at the competitions. However, our programme is being run in such a professional manner and as we started obtaining results quickly we were taken seriously in a quite a short time. What was your first experience on the skeleton track like? It's something that you never ever forget; it was the scariest and most exhilarating thing I'd done. I saw the sport for the first time the day before I went down the track. Once I got on I had no idea where I was, it was pretty terrifying. And how about your experience at the Games in Turin where you finished 13th? It was certainly a hairy track at Cesana. I was nervous. I was 19 in Torino and at the time it was one of the scariest tracks on the circuit. Leading into the Games we had only been on the track 12 times but by the time the race came around I wasn't scared any more. You won Australia's first World Cup skeleton medal in Nagano, Japan when you finished 2nd in 2007. Just how special a moment was that for you? It was a really special moment for me. I had been close to podiums before that but to get a silver medal at such an event was just amazing. We had worked really hard to get to that and it was just great to be an Australian winning a skeleton medal. What are your aims and ambitions for the sport from here? To keep doing that! To win some more World Cup medals and place highly in the overall World Cup rankings. And, of course, my main ambition at the moment is the Vancouver Games. Would it be a stretch for you to get a medal in Vancouver? I think it's possible. It's been a very hyped- up track. I think people were anxious that it would be a monster and take a lot of effort to learn but it is already one of my favourite tracks. MICHELLE STEELE