World Class Geoff Henke Winter Olympic Training Centre Officially Opens in Brisbane

5 May 2021

The Geoff Henke Olympic Winter Training Centre has officially opened in Brisbane’s Sleeman Centre, with Federal Minister for Sport Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck, Queensland Minister for Sport Hon. Stirling Hinchliffe MP, and AOC President John Coates AC launching the world class international freestyle skiing facility.

Winter Olympic legends including Kirstie Marshall, Jacqui Cooper and Steven Bradbury joined Beijing Olympic hopefuls like 2021 aerials World Champion Laura Peel, Australian sport administrators and supporters to celebrate the first year-round outdoor aerial facility in the southern hemisphere.

A $6.5 million collaboration between the Australian Government through Sport Australia, Queensland Government, Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA), the new home base for elite athletes will boost Australia’s talent and training pathways to identify and develop.

The facility was named to honour the life-long contribution Geoff Henke AO has made to Australian Winter Olympic sport.

Video News Release from today’s event will be made available for download here

File footage from previous training events including GoPro footage available here

While the facility opened for testing and training in September 2020, today marked the chance to bring together Australian Winter Olympic athletes and supporters from around the country, with rain not preventing the current national team members showcasing an array of jumps as part of the ceremonial opening.

AOC CEO Matt Carroll said today’s official opening was a great day for the future of Olympic winter sport in Australia.

"I’m thrilled to see Olympians showcasing their skills today to launch this world class facility in Brisbane," Mr Carroll said.

"This has been an outstanding collaboration to get a great result not just for current athletes but future generations. Thank you to Minister Colbeck and the Australian Government, Minister Hinchliffe and the Queensland Government and the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia for working in partnership to make this world class facility a reality."

"Now the country’s best talent can be identified and developed right here at home, from having a go at a new sport to competing at the highest levels representing Australia around the world.

"This also means funding and time can be invested into the Australian community rather than going to overseas facilities."

Australian athletes have had to hone their skills overseas, with a water ramp facility in Utah had more than 3600 days of training logged by Australian athletes from 2013-2017.

Minister Colbeck said the opening marked an exciting new chapter for our winter stars of the future.

"This facility will give our athletes a world-leading advantage, allowing them to train safely and comfortably in our own backyard," Minister Colbeck said.

"It delivers state-of-the-art facilities right now for our current winter Olympians getting ready for the Beijing Games in 2022."

Queensland Minister for Sport Stirling Hinchliffe said traditionally Queensland didn’t spring to mind as a training ground for the winter Olympics.

"What we’ve put in place is the southern hemisphere’s only world-class international freestyle skiing facility of its kind," Mr Hinchliffe said.

"It’s the ideal place to perfect the trickiest of jumps and twists. One of ramp’s frequent users, Dani Scott, has already won three gold medals; one in Utah and two in Switzerland.

"We have Queenslanders using the ramp as the centrepiece of their training for Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. This is sporting infrastructure at the Sleeman Centre that will create a lasting legacy for Queenslanders and Australian hopefuls chasing medals at the Winter Olympics."

From the top of the 37 metre high facility, athletes can reach maximum speeds of over 70km/h and launch up to 17 metres above the water, trialling and perfecting aerial manoeuvres in the safety of the water-landing before transferring them to the snow.

Today’s opening was the realisation of an 15-year dream of Geoff Henke, President of the OWIA and lifelong contributor to the growth of winter sport in Australia.

"Miracles do happen!" Mr Henke said on the ramp’s official launch. "The best water jump ramp in the world is right here in Australia.

"We’re 100% athlete-oriented and this is the most marvellous thing our athletes have ever experienced. Now instead of spending money and time to get athletes on facilities overseas, this is happening right here at home.

"This is effort, attention and funding directed for the development of the current and future athletes and I’m sure we’ll be seeing outstanding results from this investment on the world stage for generations."

The facility has different jumps to cater for a wide variety of Olympic winter disciplines and experience levels, from beginner to the tallest triple jump.

The facility has already contributed to world class results, with aerial skier Danielle Scott training in 2020 in her return from injury before claiming World Cup gold in her international competition return in February 2021, and Matt Graham claiming the moguls Crystal Globe as season champion after honing his skills on the facility.

"This ramp is a dream come true," Scott said. "To be able to train on the best facility in the world, particularly now with the challenges of international travel, is such an amazing advantage."

"There’s been some incredible international results from the team after even just a short season of using the ramp, it really gives us an edge.

"This is massive not just for us now but for the development of the sport in Australia. To be able to have kids filtering through, trying the sport, it’s going to bring so much success and I’m so excited for future generations.

"Leaving a legacy is pretty special; back in the day I was looking up at those legends like Jacqui Cooper, Kirstie Marshall and Lydia Lassila, now I’m excited for the younger girls to be able to see what it’s all about on home soil and hopefully inspire our next generation.

Australia’s rich legacy in aerials and moguls has netted eight of Australia’s 15 Winter Olympic medals including three gold, with the ‘Flying Kangaroos’ looking to add to that tally in less than a year in Beijing.

Video News Release from today’s event will be made available for download here

File footage from previous training events including GoPro footage available here

For more information please contact Dom Sullivan at the AOC at dominic.sullivan@olympics.com.au or on 0421 423 582 or Andrew Pattison at OWIA at andrew.pattison@owia.org or on 0411 281 372.

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