Pique n' your interest 

Does Canada want to win?

One of the greatest junior welterweight boxers of all time, Kostya Tszyu, once told me that when he wanted to focus on training before a title fight he went to the Australian Institute of Sport, or the AIS.

Tszyu is a Russian born Australian fighter so his exact words were: "I go to AIS and smash myself to be ready."

Around the same time one of my rugby teammates from high school, Matthew Dunning, was selected for the NSW side (he now plays for Australia) and they had a pre-season camp.

The NSW team managers wanted to put as much muscle on their younger players as they could in a short space of time so they sent them to the AIS in Canberra.

The AIS is an indispensable resource for all kinds of athletes but it’s always hard to get a sense of what happens there until the Olympics roll round.

And now that the Olympics have started in Athens there is one thing that everyone can be certain of.

Every Australian athlete competing in Athens would have lived at the AIS (or one of its state-based subsidiaries) or been trained or advised by someone that works at the AIS.

The AIS costs Australian taxpayers $150 million a year, which is three times what the Canadian government spends on sport, and while that is a lot of money the benefits far outweigh the cost.

Examples of the AIS’s work is most evident whenever an Australian wins a medal.

For example, the cycling world was shocked last week when three Australian women finished in the top 15 in the cycling road race.

Sara Carrigan from Gunnedah in the NSW outback won the gold medal - only four years after being unable to break into the Australian team — while Oenone Wood finished fourth and Olivia Gollan was twelfth.

In what was one of the most competitive races in the history of women’s cycling the result was an incredible one for Australia’s cycling team, but if you look at the kind of training the Australian women have the result is not that surprising.

At the AIS Carrigan, Wood and Gollan, like the rest of the cycling athletes, would have been tested in a lab in conditions exactly like those in Athens.

The team managers would have experimented with different kinds of fluids and every team member would have had their own drinks made for the race.

All the riders would have had an option of training at the AIS or at a state-based institution such as the NSW Institute of Sport, or NSWIS.

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