Camplin secures southern hemisphere milestone

Few who encountered Alisa Camplin as a girl would have predicted that she would go on to win gold at the Winter Olympics.

As a youngster the Australian was a talented gymnast, developing the flexibility and acrobatic prowess that would later help her freestyle skiing. But her skiing career had to wait until longer, not least because she didn't even see snow until she was a teenager.

In fact, incredibly for someone who would later become a top winter athlete, Camplin did not ski for the first time until she was 19 years old.

Eight years later, she was lining up to compete on the Olympic stage in Salt Lake City. The intervening years had seen her progress rapidly from beginners’ skiing lessons to international competition as an aerials skier. Many felt that her skiing abilities were no match for some of her fellow competitors. That may have been true, but on the flip side, she boasted gymnastic skills that enabled her to pull off precise and sometimes breathtaking jumps. She had endured plenty of crashes in the eight years since taking up skiing, some of them spectacular. On nine separate occasions she had suffered concussion, but her determination to succeed pushed her through and she came fifth in the 2001 World Cup. Then, in the run-up to the Games, she suffered yet another injury that threatened to rule her out of competing. She thought it was just bruising, but then doctors diagnosed fractures in both ankles and advised her not to compete. She thanked them, and decided to compete anyway.

While she certainly was not the favourite coming to Salt Lake City, she was also not a rank outsider. She had demonstrated her ability in the qualifying round, when she finished second behind Switzerland's Evelyne Leu.

Leu couldn't maintain that form in the final, but Camplin forged on, challenging for gold. In the end, her qualifying score proved crucial. Canada's Veronica Brenner and Deidra Dionne both outscored her in the final, but Camplin's overall total was good enough to take gold.

She became the first woman from the southern hemisphere to win gold at the Winter Olympics and only the second of either gender, following the achievements of her compatriot Steve Bradbury in the short track skating a few days earlier. In 2006, Camplin returned to the Olympic arena once more to take a bronze medal in Turin, before retiring from international competition a few months later.