By Nick Butler

Ian Chesterman explained how Australia are chasing a record Winter Olympic medal haul in SochiOctober 30 - Ian Chesterman, Chef de Mission of the Australian team at Sochi 2014, has claimed they are "unashamedly" chasing a record medal haul and to help the chase have introduced similar alcohol ban to that announced last week for Rio 2016.

Speaking in Sydney 100 days before the Opening Ceremony of Sochi 2014, Chesterman was full of confidence about the team's prospects of improving on the two gold and one silver medal at Vancouver in 2010.

That beat their previous best performance of two gold medals at Salt Lake City 2002.

"We are anticipating our largest team ever with 55 athletes - it may creep higher and we hope it does," he said.

"The prospective team includes highly credentialed athletes.

"Last season we won 25 World Cup or World Championship medals won by 15 athletes across a range of disciplines.

"It gives you an idea of the strength and depth we represent now in winter sports and we will be unashamedly chasing a record medal haul at these Games."

To underline this ambition Chesterman was speaking alongside some of Australia's strongest hopes, including  reigning Olympic aerials champion Lydia Lassila and two other freestyle skiers, Anton Grimus and Britteny Cox.

The pair, competing in the ski-cross and moguls event respectably, have each won medals on the World Cup circuit and will be targeting places on the podium in Sochi.

Chef de mission Ian Chesterman was speaking alongside several prospective members in the Australian team in SochiChef de Mission Ian Chesterman was speaking alongside three of Australia's top contenders for medals in Sochi

Lassila is aiming to become the first Australian - and first freestyle  skier - to successfully defend an Olympic title.

She insisted she is on track with this plan and is "jumping better than ever" as she works on new tricks.

Although not present in Sydney, the other two Vancouver 2010 medalists in snowboarder Torah Bright and moguls skier Dale Begg-Smith will also be back to challenge for more success at Sochi 2014.

Bright won gold on the half-pipe while Begg-Smith won moguls silver in Vancouver to follow gold four years earlier in Turin.

Chesterman claimed the belief and winning mentality provided by these athletes brings confidence to the rest of the team.

"There is a sense of self-belief and culture within our athletes and they believe they can win which is very important," he said.

"We know our place an emerging winter nation but we definitely don't feel like a lonely sibling to the summer team here in Australia.

"We are delighted that these athletes are part of the Australian Olympic team as one brand."

Lydia Lassila is seeking to become the first ever Australian to defend a Winter Olympic titleLydia Lassila is seeking to become the first ever Australian to defend a Winter Olympic title

A dimension of this "one brand" mentality is the incorporation of the alcohol ban introduced for the summer team last week for the 2016 Games in Rio.

This was the result of public criticism of the conduct of members of the team at the London 2012 Games.

Although he downplayed the likelihood of this being a problem in Sochi, Chesterman announced that a similar ban would be implemented for Sochi 2014.

"We are taking the same move in Sochi and the Villages will be dry of alcohol," he said.

"We want to create an environment where it is all about performance.

"I've got to say it has not been an issue with the teams I have been involved with since 1994, so I don't sense that it is a problem but the time is right to do it."

Chesterman claimed the issue is especially important because, unlike in previous Games, 80 per cent of the squad will be staying in one Village so will be especially vulnerable to these distractions.

"It's an unusual circumstance for us," he said.

"So we just think the ban is a good way of ensuring everybody who's staying in that confined space has a good opportunity to compete and perform at their best."

Chesterman also claimed he was satisfied with security plans for Sochi 2014.

He also admitted the had been reassured by assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin about gay athletes being "very welcome" to compete, as well as measures being undertaken to minimise security concerns. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has provided reassurances that gay athletes will be welcomed at the Winter OlympicsRussian President Vladimir Putin has provided reassurances that gay athletes will be welcomed at the Winter Olympics

He explained how "we have been aware of and dealing with these problems in the lead up to the Games," before adding that "we are very comfortable with both situations and particularly the gay rights issue."

He added: "We have received strong assurances in the past from leading Russian officials and now with the President coming out very strong yesterday and giving his assurances, our athletes can go to the Games relaxed and able to enjoy themselves which is the way it should be."

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