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Marcks gives AIS talent camps the thumbs up

Australia's Megan Still, right, and Kate Slatter after wining the gold medal in the women's coxless pair at the Atlanta Olympics.

Australia's Megan Still, right, and Kate Slatter after wining the gold medal in the women's coxless pair at the Atlanta Olympics.

Talent identification sensation and Olympic Games gold medal winner Megan Marcks is adamant the testing that uncovered her abilities will play a crucial part in rebuilding Australia as an international sporting force.

The Australian Institute of Sport will make talent identification a main focus as it undergoes the biggest restructure in its history.

More than 20 years ago, Marcks (nee Still) burst into rowing through a national talent ID program despite never having participated in the sport.

Olympic gold medallist Megan Marcks.

Olympic gold medallist Megan Marcks. Photo: Lyn Mills

After being scouted for her physique and aerobic capacity in 1988, Marcks went on to win gold in the coxless pair at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Her journey from obscurity to the pinnacle of her new sport still has her shaking her head.

''It's amazing how one day can change your whole life … I would have never tried rowing unless the chance [with the AIS] came up,'' she said.

''I tried a sport I never really thought about and I went on to win a gold medal. It makes you wonder how many people are out there who never get the chance to try a sport they could potentially be particularly good at.''

The AIS ''Winning Edge'' initiative is a 10-year plan aimed at getting Australia into the top five on the medal tally at the Olympics.

To broaden the talent available, the institute will host talent ID camps next year.

Details of the camps have not been finalised as the athlete pathway development boss Jason Gulbin waits for hierarchy to finish its structure.

Talent ID programs have suffered in recent years through funding cuts and a ''sports political juggling act'' preventing Gulbin and his shrinking team to uncover new athletes.

Marcks' success is evidence the programs can work and Gulbin is keen to expand talent ID beyond the traditional rowing, cycling and canoeing to help Australia to win medals across a variety of sports.

Marcks now works with the ACT Academy of Sport, which has talent ID programs.

''Originally when they were doing the testing [in 1988] they were only going to do Canberra schools and my PE teacher at the time asked if they could come to the Queanbeyan schools as well,'' Marcks said. ''I never dreamt I would go on to win gold. I had an athletics background and maybe that was a springboard for me.''

Gulbin said: ''People generally take 10,000 hours or 10 years of training. What we're interested in doing is finding out the minimum amount of development time it really takes.

''How efficient can we be? Why does it have to take 10 years. Why can't we do it in four years?

I think if you keep getting the good elements you can really accelerate people.

''The natural baseline is quick development if you've got the right program in place. There's never any guarantee someone will make it, but our job is to fit the right talent with the right coaches.''

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