Games the focus for Belle Brockhoff, not Vlad’s gay laws
RUSSIAN president Vladimir Putin is likely to cut a lonely figure at tonight's Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi.
Many world leaders, including US President Barrack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have opted to stay at home in protest against the country's new laws banning "gay propaganda".
But 21-year-old snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, the only openly gay Australian athlete at the Games, said that while she was concerned about gay rights in Russia, her focus was on the competition.
"Hopefully if I get a medal I'll be able to use that platform to point these things out and hopefully get a change," she said. "But if I don't get a medal not many people will want to listen to my opinion, so my focus is doing my job as an athlete."
Most of Australia's 60-strong contingent has arrived in the Olympic town with the team mascot BK (the boxing kangaroo) welcoming them at the airport.
Snowboarder Alex Pullin, a real medal chance after winning the World Championship and World Cup titles in 2012 and 2013, received a rock star reception.
"I'm feeling really good. Whoever I line up against in the gate I'll be giving it my best to get across the line in front of them," he said.
"You feel the pressures; my own expectations are the heaviest ones. I'm here to do my best and aiming for the top like everyone else is."
Most members of the Australian team will be in action tomorrow with qualifying in the biathlon, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboard and speed skating.
Chef de mission Ian Chesterman said Australia's goal was clear - a record medal haul.
Australian athletes have won a total of nine Winter Olympics medals compared to 444 in the summer version.
Our best chances again lie with Lydia Lassila (aerials) and Torah Bright (snowboard slopestyle and cross, halfpipe) who both won gold at the Vancouver Games four years ago.
Russ Henshaw (ski slopestyle), Chumpy Pullin (snowboard cross), Scotty James (snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle) and Canadian-born Dale Begg-Smith (moguls), who won gold in Turin in 2006 and silver in Vancouver, are also regarded as strong medal chances.