Mixed fortunes for Tasmanian athletes from changes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic program

Bronzed: Manly and Cure.
Bronzed: Manly and Cure.

Changes to the Olympic program are likely to lead to mixed fortunes for Tasmanian athletes.

The state’s traditionally strong sports of cycling and rowing are impacted by the International Olympic Committee’s adjustment to the program for Tokyo 2020 which seeks to improve gender equality and reduce the overall number of athletes.

The introduction of a women’s madison in track cycling presents a golden opportunity for West Pine’s 24-year-old dual Olympian Amy Cure, who won the event’s inaugural Oceania title with Annette Edmondson last December and claimed a world championship bronze medal with another South Australian, Alex Manly, in April.

Meanwhile, the decision to introduce a mixed team triathlon relay opens a second door for Jake Birtwhistle.

Launceston’s 22-year-old former under-23 world champion was considered unlucky to miss selection to the 2016 Rio Olympics and has already earned a selection nomination for next year’s Commonwealth Games.

On Tuesday, Launceston-born Rio Olympian Chris Goulding, 28, was named in a 20-man Australian squad preparing for basketball’s Asia Cup in Lebanon in August and could be in the picture for the newly-introduced 3x3 format.

However, the axing of the men’s lightweight four event as part of a reduction of 24 athletes to reach gender balance in rowing, deprives Tasmania of an event in which Darren Balmforth, Simon Burgess and Anthony Edwards have won silver medals and in which Edwards and Sam Beltz were in the crew that came fourth in 2012.

Rowing provided seven of Tasmania’s 15 Olympians in Beijing and London but only Huon’s Georgia Nesbitt, 25, and Sarah Hawe, 30, are currently in national crews.

Tasmanian Institute of Sport director Paul Austen said the changing face of the Olympic program inevitably presented contrasting opportunities for the state.

“The changes increase the opportunity for some of our leading athletes to go to the Olympics in 2020 but have made it harder in one of our traditional strengths of lightweight rowing,” he said.

The TIS is evaluating Tasmanian athletic profiles to see what opportunities may be presented by new sports on the Olympic program.