AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF SPORT
ESTABLISHMENT AND GROWTH
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is the leading institution for the development of elite sport in Australia. Its results speak for themselves and it is regarded as a world best practice model for elite athlete development. The Institute was established following disappointing results from the Australian team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in which Australia won just one silver medal and four bronze medals. The Commonwealth Government conducted a review of Australia's elite sport system, which determined that Australia needed a centre to prepare athletes for the rigours of international competition.
The AIS was opened by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, on Australia Day 1981 on a 65 hectare site, 10 minutes from Canberra’s city centre. The first intake of 150 athletes in eight sports (basketball, swimming, weightlifting, track and field, gymnastics, netball, soccer and tennis) was based in Canberra under 26 world class coaches, as reported in an article in Year Book Australia 1984. Now the AIS offers scholarships every year to almost 600 athletes in 27 sports, and employs around 70 coaches. The 1990s also saw a decentralising of the national system, with programs now also located in Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Mount Buller.
In 1989 the AIS first offered a scholarship to disabled athletes. An expanded scholarship program, Athletes with Disabilities, began in 1993.
Since 1995, the implementation of career development and education programs such as the Athlete Career and Education (ACE) program, have provided great benefits for Australia's elite athletes. This has encouraged them to adopt a more balanced and holistic approach to achieving success in life as well as sport. This has been shown to not only enhance their capacity to perform, but also to improve their chance of leading a fulfilling life when their sporting careers are over.
The Sports Science and Sports Medicine Division of the AIS leads the world in sport science and research developments. The Division comprises some of the world’s leading authorities in physiology, biomechanics, psychology, nutrition and sports medicine. The Division is credited with many revolutionary breakthroughs, including the ice-jacket used at the Atlanta Olympics, the ‘super roo bike’, and the use of the Altitude House as an important facility in helping athletes prepare for competition. The cutting edge work of the AIS in the field of sport science is best exemplified by the recent development (in conjunction with the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory) of a test for erythropoietin (EPO); EPO is a hormone which occurs naturally in the human body, but artificial EPO can be injected in order to improve performance. This test was endorsed by the IOC Medical Commission and approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive in the lead-up to the 2000 Olympics.
The turnaround in Australia's sporting performances since 1976 has been quite remarkable, climaxing in a best ever result at the Sydney Olympic Games. Furthermore, the number of sports in which Australia has won Olympic medals has increased from four to nineteen during this period (table 12.30).
12.30 AUSTRALIA'S MEDAL TALLY AT OLYMPIC GAMES - 1976 to 2000
The AIS made a significant contribution to Australia's efforts at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, with 315 of the 620 members of the team being current or former AIS scholarship holders. Of the record 58 medals won at the Sydney Olympics, 31 were won by current or former institute athletes. They won 7 gold, 11 silver and 13 bronze medals. It was a similar story at the 2000 Paralympics, with just under half of the record 149 medals won by current or former AIS athletes. AIS Paralympians won 32 gold, 14 silver and 13 bronze medals (see also the article A look back at the Sydney Olympics and Paralympics).
The AIS scholarship programs are also aimed at developing world class Australian sportsmen and women for international competition in winter sports and in non-Olympic sports. In 1999 Australia won two world championships in skiing, with Zali Steggall winning the women’s slalom and Jacqui Cooper the women’s freestyle aerials. Australia has also recently won the World Netball Championships, the rugby World Cup and the cricket World Cup. More than 60% of the members of these teams were former AIS scholarship holders.
The AIS initiative is widely recognised as the single most important factor in the resurgence of Australian sport on the world stage.
Australian Sports Commission, ASC Factsheets - Australian Institute of Sport, at http://www.ausport.gov.au/
Pyke, F. and Norris, K. (National Elite Sports Council) 2001, Australia from Montreal to Sydney: A History of a Change in Model, in the proceedings of the 2nd International Forum on Elite Sport at the Centre d'Alt Rendiment of Sant Cugat, Catalonia, Spain.
Australian Institute of Sport, http://www.ais.org.au
|Source: National Elite Sports Council.|