AUSTRALIA’S OLYMPIANS send message of support to firefighters in Victoria as reported by Natalie Peters from Sochi
There’s snow on the ground and temperatures are hovering below freezing point here in Sochi, but the thoughts of Australian athletes are with those battling extreme bushfire conditions back home.
Natalie Peters is a broadcaster, journalist, skier and is covering the Olympic Games for 2GB in Sydney where she is Deputy News Director. She is filing exclusive blogs for Snow It All from the ground in Russia. Follow her on twitter @nataliejpeters
The team has sent a message of support to those affected by the fresh wave of fires sweeping through parts of Victoria where police are investigating 12 bush fires which are thought to be deliberately lit. Over 280 000 hectares have so far been burnt.
Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman says they may be on the other side of the world at the Olympic Games but they share the anguish.
“We are touched by your bravery, your resilience,” he says. “Your fighting spirit drives us on. To the firefighters we say another massive thank you for putting your lives on the line to protect homes, properties and the well being of those facing the fire front.”
Many of our Winter Olympic athletes live and train in regions which often come under threat in the Summer months when they’re away competing in the northern hemisphere. Hotham Alpine Resort, home mountain for alpine athlete Greta Small and halfpipe athlete Hannah Trigger and training ground for Alex Almoukov and Lucy Glanville biathlon athletes, suffered damage during last summer’s bushfires.
Alpine skier Emily Bamford lives in Doreen, not far from where the fires are currently and some of her pony clubs from childhood have burnt down.
“A lot of friends who have horses and animals have been taking them to my parents farm because their properties are in very close danger to the fires.
It’s really scary but I can’t do anything but hope for the best for everyone at home and concentrate on my training and schedule.”
Fresh off the Downhill course after doing Australia proud finishing 15th in the Super Combined, 18 year old Greta Small said fires back home also concern her, as her dad lives at the base of Mt Hotham.
“Last year they turned the snow guns on for the fires,” she said. “I just try not to think about it because all those things are very scary. I’ve been just really focusing on my event and what I need to do.”
Her message to those back home? “Keep safe, just keep safe.”
Melbourne born Heath Spence from the Australian bobsled team tweeted his support today.
As did alpine skier Lavinia Chrystal.
Skier X athlete, Jenny Owens sent this message of support to Victorians in the fire danger zones.
“Thinking of all the Vic Fire fighters risking their lives to save our people, their houses, bushland and homes for the wildlife. Hope you all stay safe.”
At least a dozen homes have been destroyed and emergency warnings remain in place for regions to the north and east of Melbourne. For the latest on the threats visit http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/.
The federal and Victorian governments have announced they’re offering bushfire victims cash to help to pay for emergency accommodation and food.
instagram images of the tragic bush fires in Victoria
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Feature image credit: Olympics.com.au