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Sport

19 January, 2022

UPDATED: Twist in Toomey's qualification for Winter Olympics

A spanner has been thrown in the works, with Tia-Clair Toomey and Ashleigh Werner in doubt to be picked for Beijing.

By Matt Nicholls

UPDATE: Weipa's Tia-Clair Toomey could be heading to court to determine her place in the Winter Olympics.

Toomey and her bobsleigh partner Ashleigh Werner were the top qualifiers for Australia in ranking events in Europe, but a quirk in this year's Olympic events mean that Bobsleigh & Skeleton Australia could turn to another contender.

BSA was expected to make its formal decision on Friday as two who the two females would be to represent Australia.

The confusion has arisen because Bree Walker is considered a medal contender in the monobob – a new event in this year's Olympics.

While Walker – who had multiple partners in the two-woman bobsleigh – is our best shot in the monobob, the rules state that Australia must pick the same driver for both events.

Walker's overall ranking is higher than Werner's because the monobob and two-woman bobsleigh events are combined for the purposes of BSA selection.

BSA could send Walker and another Aussie instead of Toomey and Werner because they believe the monobob is our best medal chance.

Australia was in a position to qualify two teams for the Beijing Games but Walker and fellow Australian Sarah Blizzard performed terribly and could not secure the second berth.

Bobsleigh and Skeleton Australia told News Corp it would not comment on the selection, saying it was still not finalised, while the Australian Olympic Committee said it also could not comment because it had not received the final nominations.

Any appeal lodged would be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  

ORIGINAL STORY

WEIPA’S Tia-Clair Toomey is off to the Winter Olympics.

Her position was confirmed on Tuesday when the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation released its rankings for the two-woman bobsleigh event.

Toomey, who partners up with Ashleigh Werner in the high-speed event, has spent the last 18 months travelling around Europe and North America to hone her skills on the ice.

Bobsleigh & Skeleton Australia has yet to confirm Werner and Toomey’s position for Beijing, but it appears to be a formality after they outperformed their Aussie counterparts in qualifying events.

BSA does have discretionary power to pick the two athletes to represent Australia in the sleigh, but it's almost certain that Werner and Toomey will be selected.

Toomey will join a small list of Australians to have competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

Paul Narracott and Jana Pittman were both representatives for the Australian track and field team and went on to wear the green and gold in bobsleigh.

Only one weightlifter has ever gone on to compete at the Winter Olympics – Slovakia’s Martin Tešovič, who was also a bobsledder.

Tia-Clair Toomey won weightlifting gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Toomey represented Australia in the 2016 Olympics, where she finished 14th overall in the women’s 58kg division.

She went on to win a gold medal in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the same category, lifting a combined total of 201kg.

For most of Toomey’s followers, she is best known as a CrossFit star – a huge sport in the United States and Europe and one that is growing in Australia.

Toomey has won gold at the CrossFit Games five times and finished runner-up twice, earning her the title of “fittest woman on the planet”.

While her fitness will help on the Olympic bobsleigh circuit, her role will involve sheer power and teamwork as the brakewoman in the sleigh.

Werner is the driver and has most of the work to do. Toomey’s role is to ensure they power off the blocks and get into the sleigh efficiently.

The brakes are only applied at the end of the race.

Tia-Clair Toomey has a huge following in the United States as a CrossFit champion.

Speaking to Cape York Weekly from Europe, husband Shane Orr, also a Weipa product, said most people knew about bobsleigh from the movie Cool Runnings, which didn't paint an honest picture of the sport.

"Bobsleigh is a very demanding sport, not just physically but mentally," he said.

"The sport requires a significant amount of travel, which makes it difficult to train, maintain consistent nutrition and sleep.

"Being raised in Weipa doesn’t prepare you for the cold temperatures. 

"And lastly, we also need to monitor for COVID-19."

Orr said he was trying to play a key role to support his wife and the team.

"My role is performance coach and logistic manager. I assist the team with training requirements and take charge of moving the bobsleigh from one country to the next," he said. 

"Let me tell you something Cool Runnings lied about; you can’t just throw the bobsleigh on your shoulder like the movie did. It’s too heavy and awkward – the two-man sled weighs 180kg.

"Thank you for the support back home. We are visiting Weipa this September and look forward to seeing you all."

Weipa's Shane Orr and Tia-Clair Toomey.
Weipa's Shane Orr and Tia-Clair Toomey.

On her Instagram page, Toomey said she was thrilled to be heading to another Olympics.

“I’m super excited to announce this very special moment; anyone who has followed my journey knows how incredibly important representing Australia is to both Shane and I, so this one means a lot,” she wrote.

“Yesterday the IBSF announced the qualified quota spots for the nations around the world and …. we did it!

“Ash and I qualified Australia for a spot at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

“This was an incredible two-year journey filled with fierce competition, what seems like a lifetime worth of learning and a lot of sacrifices, all amidst the uncertain times we’re living in.

“Overcoming these challenges to achieve this feat makes us even prouder of the outcome. But we couldn’t have done it alone.

“I would like to thank Rogue Fitness for all their support throughout our season. It has been an incredible journey; we couldn’t have done it without their help.”

The Beijing Winter Olympics begin on February 4.


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