The sunny, snowless, surfers’ haven is about to become a training ground for aspiring Winter Olympians.
A facility featuring a ski jump ramp over an Olympic-sized pool will be built at Lennox Head by 2018.
Australian freestyle skier and Vancouver Winter Olympic gold medallist Lydia Lassila has been campaigning for the facility, which will be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, for many years.
She said Australian athletes often had to base themselves in Switzerland, the USA and Canada to gain access to word-class facilities like the one to be built in Lennox Head.
“We spend a good nine to 10 months away every year, which makes it difficult to connect with your family and friends and study,” Ms Lassila said.
“Having a facility at home allows you to live a normal life and gain a large edge over the rest of the countries.”
Facility Will Give Australian Athletes an Edge
The 34-year-old mother-of-two said a home training base would also help her to continue her career.
“It will allow me to remain an elite athlete,” she said.
“I’m heading into my fifth Olympics and it all depends on how much training and access to facilities I can get.”
Ms Lassila said Lennox Head made sense as a location because winter athletes did much of their training on water.
“A lot of people don’t realise we train on water ramp facilities for about six months of the year, so it’s where we get to learn and refine our tricks,” Ms Lassila said.
“We refine our skills, repeat them and transfer them to snow.
“We land in aerated bubbles, so there’s a bubble system at the bottom of the pool that shoots up air to break the surface area of the pool and make it a little bit softer to land in.
“This will be operational 12 months of the year, which is an enormous edge over the rest of the world.
“A lot of these water ramps are closed for six months of the year because they’re under snow.”
As part of the campaign to secure funding for the centre, a documentary about Ms Lassila called The Will to Fly was shown to New South Wales politicians.
“It’s a very compelling and strong-themed movie, and I think those who have seen it have a much better understanding of what us skiers put our minds and bodies through, and understand that we actually do need these
facilities to continue success in the future,” Ms Lassila said.
NSW Minister for Sport Stuart Ayres this week announced $5.9 million for the centre, which will be based at the existing Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre.
The centre will cost $10 million and will be jointly funded by the NSW Government, Australian Sports Commission, and Australian Olympic Committee through the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia.
“We’ve been looking at the site for a while and it’s loomed large in the mind of high performance managers and governments,” Mr Ayres said.
“We’re hoping it will also attract international visitors.”
Olympic Winter Institute of Australia chairman Geoff Henke said the centre would also be suitable for snowboarders and mogul skiers.
“This is where the surf will meet the snow,” he said.
“With a facility like this we can lead the world in the Winter Olympics.”