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Australia raises cash incentives for athletes

Written by: Staff
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MELBOURNE, Nov 22 (Reuters) The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has boosted funding for elite athletes training for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing to more than 5 million Australian dollars (3.85 million dollars).

Athletes who win a gold medal at a world championship or other major international events of comparable standard in either 2006 or 2007 will receive 15,000 Australian dollars.

Silver medallists will get 10,000 Australian dollars, bronze medallists 7,500 Australian dollars and in a new move those finishing fourth will receive 5,000 Australian dollars.

''In order to remain competitive in Beijing and beyond we need to ensure appropriate incentives are in place for our best athletes'' AOC President John Coates said in a statement.

''We felt it necessary to include fourth placed athletes as we know from past experience that many of our Olympic medallists will come from this pool of athletes''.

''And members of teams will continue to receive the same funding as individuals'', Coates said.

The latest benchmark study conducted by the AOC indicates Australia would finish fifth on the overall medal tally if the Olympic Games had been held this year.

The figures show Australian athletes winning 40 medals, 15 gold, 13 silver and 12 bronze, a sharp fall from 2005 when they won 50 and the 2004 Olympics in Athens, when Australia was fourth with 49 medals.

''It is essential we reverse the trend in 2007 and the increased funding is paramount to our success in Beijing,'' Coates said.

REUTERS DH VV1125

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