Michelle Steele, a member of AIS Women's Skeleton Team, testing in the Monash University wind tunnel.
Michelle Steele, a member of AIS Women's Skeleton Team, testing in the Monash University wind tunnel. Greg Ford

Olympic tilt begins

ONE-TIME beach sprinter turned Olympic skeleton racer Michelle Steele dives headfirst into her tilt at a second Winter Olympic campaign today, competing at the FIBT World Cup event in the United States.

Steele took up skeleton in 2004 through the Australian Sports Commission’s National Talent Identification and Development program.

Now an integral member of the AIS skeleton squad, Bundaberg’s Steele, alongside Lucy Chaffer, Melissa Hoar and Emma Lincoln-Smith, has been training hard through September at the AIS in Canberra, before heading to Utah’s Park City facility early in preparation for the eight rounds of the FIBT World Cup.

The series is used to determine how many sliders from each nation will earn entry to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The top two ranked skeleton nations after the World Cup will qualify three athletes for the Winter Olympics, while nations ranked three to six will qualify two athletes and nations in the top eight will qualify at least one.

The AIS/OWI team finished in fifth position last season, and if it can maintain a place among the top six nations in the lead-up to the Games, Australia will earn its coveted two places in the Vancouver field.

Emma Lincoln-Smith and Steele both recorded top five results in the past season, Steele in the World Cup and Lincoln-Smith at the World Championships, so hopes are high that two Australian athletes will be marching in Canada in February.

Steele has been identified as one of the strongest medal hopefuls in the crop and says she is feeling fitter, stronger and more ready than ever before.

“I have had a few seasons under my belt. I have a good feel for the sport and where I have to work to improve,” she told the NewsMail earlier this month before heading to Utah.

Now in her fifth season of the sport, Steele is confident she has the knowledge and skills and can learn from her initial Winter Olympic experience in Torino, Italy in 2006.

The FIBT series meets twice in the United States during November, before heading to Italy, Germany and Switzerland, before finishing in Austria in January.



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