Australia on track for record team at Tokyo Olympics
MORE than a year before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Australia is eyeing a massive team after already clinching 33 places.
With more than 15 months to go before the Olympics even get underway in Japan, Australians have already locked up 33 qualifying spots, well ahead of early predictions, with the women's Rugby Sevens team, who won gold at Rio in 2016, the latest to clinch a spot.
If that trend continues, Australia could be looking at qualifying its biggest team yet for an Olympic Games away from home, eclipsing the 482 competitors who qualified for Athens in 2004.
And that could mean good news for Australia's medal harvest because, in contradiction to the popular old phrase that size doesn't matter, our best performances at the Olympics have been when we've sent our largest teams.
Spearheaded by the triple gold medal winners Jodie Henry and Petria Thomas, the 2004 team that went to Athens won a record 17 gold medals at the birthplace of the Olympics.
That team also won 50 medals overall, which is second only to the 58 medals that Australia, led by Ian Thorpe and Cathy Freeman, collected at Sydney when represented by a mammoth team of 630.
For Tokyo next year, Australia has already secured quota places in five sports: women's Rugby Sevens, men's archery, equestrian, sailing and shooting.
No individuals have been chosen yet because the selectors will wait until next year before finalising their teams for each sport, but securing quotas is the first major step to winning gold.
"The journey to an Olympic Games starting line is years and years in the making - securing a quota spot for Australia is an integral milestone on that path," Australia's Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said.
The bulk of the team will be selected in 2020, with each sport subject to different qualifying rules and conditions.
Athletics, which has the biggest contingent of around 60 competitors, will mostly be chosen next year, although the relay teams can qualify at this year's world championships in Qatar.
The swim team, expected to number around 40, will be picked from the cutthroat national trials in mid June but can book early quota spots in seven relays at next month's world championships in South Korea.
The men's and women's football teams will play qualifying tournaments early next year as will the women's basketball team while the NBA-stacked men's team can qualify as early as September at the FIBA World Cup in China.
Most of the cyclists will be selected in 2020 but the rowing team will mostly be picked later this year while a stack of possible qualifications are coming up in the next two months, including the men's and women's 3x3 basketball teams, beach volleyball, diving and water polo.
Australia's secured quota spots for 2020 Tokyo Olympics
12 spots - women's Rugby Sevens
9 spots - equestrian (dressage team, jumping team and eventing team)
7 spots - sailing (470 men, 49er FX women, laser men and nacra 17 mixed)
3 spots - men's archery
2 spots - shooting (men's and women's trap).