SASI stars dominate national podium squad
2 October 2018
SASI'S highly respected cycling program again was backed up with six of the SA-based athletes winning selection in the Cycling Australia Podium Academy Squad.
James Brister, Thomas Clarke and Cailtin Ward were selected in the sprint category, while Maeve Plouffe, Sophie Edwards and Jarrad Drizners made the cut in the endurance section.
The SASI selections made up nearly 50 per cent of the total academy squad.
Clarke, 23, who won a bronze medal as a pilot for Bradley Henderson in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 1km tandem time trial, said he was thrilled with his selection.
"I've been part of the SASI program for about four years and I guess to be a part of the Commonwealth Games was a big chance for me to step up and to be noticed," Clarke said.
"I'm really excited to be able step in to the Cycling Australia program.
"My immediate goal is to get back into training after Oceanias and see where it takes me."
For Ward, 24, her selection is a credit to her resilience. In recent years she has battled chronic injuries (leg crushed while attempting a 250kg leg press), missed selections to key events because of injury and not being able to get enough suitable training because of injury before and during events.
A couple of years ago she relocated from Victoria where she had been in the former High Performance Unit to a new-look program at SASI.
Ward said her selection was a thrill after the heartache she had endured.
"I never lost the love or determination to get there even when my foot wasn't getting better," Ward said.
"It has been a long road but I realised I wasn't superman when I was pulled out of the nationals.
"But I adore the sport and the lifestyle and felt that I had more in the tank if I could get the rehab right.
"The level of support and professionalism I have had from the SASI team and coaches has been incredible.''
SASI Head Coach Cycling Brett Aitken said the program again showed South Australia's place on the national stage.
"It says so much about our program when nearly 50 per cent of the athletes have made the squad," Aitken said.
"That is a massive achievement and one one we are really proud of."
"It reinforces the strength of our program and that of our staff."
The CA Podium Academy Squad athletes will be based in Adelaide and have the chance to train alongside Australian cycling team members.
The new squad athletes will have their programs outlined soon.
The next major event for many SASI athletes is the Oceania championships in Adelaide between October 10 and 13.
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