Pittman on board as Australia name biggest Winter team

The team is the biggest Australia has ever sent to a Winter Games with 56 athletes set to compete in 10 of the 15 sports and two more possibly joining them pending a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

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While Pittman’s chances of a medal in the bobsleigh are slight, the inclusion of Olympic champions Dale Begg-Smith, Torah Bright and Lydia Lassila offer real prospects of Australia adding to their five previous winter golds.

Bright’s unprecedented bid to contest all three snowboard events now rests on other athletes withdrawing from the snowboard cross, where she is third reserve, but she will defend her halfpipe title and take part in the slopestyle.

Lassila, who won freestyle skiing aerials gold four years ago, took time off to have a baby after her Vancouver triumph but has returned in fine form this season.

“I’ve had some great performances and jumps this season – and a few slip ups – but all in all I’m heading in the right direction,” the 32-year-old, who is heading to her third Games, said in a news release.

“I am as ready as I’ll ever be.”

Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin has won two world titles in snowboard cross and is another experienced medal hope in a team where 70 percent of the athletes will be making their Olympic debut.

“This is my second Olympics but it feels a lot more real than the first. I’m a lot more ready to go for gold,” he said.

Begg-Smith, the moguls champion in Turin in 2006 and a silver medallist in Vancouver, has made a remarkable return to the sport, requiring just four World Cup events to secure his place at a third Games.

Pittman will be taking part in her third Olympics after competing in the 400 metres hurdles at the Sydney and Athens Summer Games.

After retiring from athletics, the 31-year-old tried rowing and boxing before deciding to concentrate on bobsleigh and qualifying in the two-woman team with her former track and field training partner Astrid Radjenovic.

“It is strange to think I am quicker now than when I was a track and field athlete but that has come with all the power and weights I have been doing,” Pittman said.

“I am not competing for a gold medal, I am competing because I love it.”

(Editing by Ian Ransom)

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