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When Danielle O’Brien and Greg Merriman skated onto the ice at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the world was getting a glimpse of the talent that had been bursting out of Canterbury Olympic Ice Rink since 1971.

But now the rink, an old aircraft hangar, that nurtured O’Brien, Merriman, and more than 20 other Olympians is under threat of permanent closure following fears its roof could collapse.

Former Olympians Daniella O’Brien and Greg Merriman are fighting to save Canterbury Olympic ice rink.

Former Olympians Daniella O’Brien and Greg Merriman are fighting to save Canterbury Olympic snow rink. Credit: Janie Barrett

The snap closure of the not-for-profit facility has displaced thousands of skaters, including O’Brien who is one of the rink’s directors.

“I started skating at the rink when I was six, and when I was seven, I was teamed up to skate with Greg. When I was 14, I got my first job at the rink, teaching and working in the canteen. The rink played a massive part in everything in my teenage years. It was a sanctuary, ” O’Brien told the Herald.

The particular indefinite closure of the rink comes just months after Penrith Ice Palace was closed and three years right after Macquarie Ice Rink was almost demolished to make way for an extension of the shopping centre.

Macquarie is now the only remaining Olympic-size rink in Sydney.

Danielle O’Brien and Greg Merriman oversee one of their students, Aaliyah Medina, at Ice Zoo in Alexandria.

Danielle O’Brien and Greg Merriman oversee one of their students, Aaliyah Medina, at Ice Zoo in Alexandria. Credit: Janie Barrett

Since the Canterbury rink shut the doors almost three weeks ago, about 2000 learn to skate students have had to stop lessons and members from the Sydney Figure Skating Club, Canterbury Ice Hockey Golf club and Sydney Arrows Snow Racing Club have either had to seek refuge at neighbouring venues or stop their sports altogether.

All up, more than 120, 000 skaters hit the ice at Canterbury every year, and that includes about 3163 permanent skaters that are now left without a venue.

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Merriman, who coaches in the rink, said that Canterbury’s learn how to skate program had expanded dramatically since COVID-19 lockdowns were lifted in NSW last year, and the demand for ice time was so high that some of Canterbury’s hockey teams were already playing their home games on the Penrith rink before it closed.

“All the skaters from Penrith had already been flooding Macquarie and the other rinks, and now most of us have flooded Macquarie plus Alexandria, ” Merriman said.

The rink is now seeking $17. 7 million as part of a state government grant program called WestInvest, which is a $5 billion program to transform infrastructure projects in Western Sydney.

Member for Canterbury Sophie Cotsis said she would be calling on all levels of government to band together and save an integral part of the particular south-west Sydney community.

“We really need all three levels of government to come in, and let’s work on an action plan to save the rink and to get it reopened as quickly as possible, ” Cotsis stated.

“We have to ensure that our elite athletes have access to training. That’s why Canterbury is so important, but also at a local NSW level, you have young people, people with disabilities and schools that are using the rink. ”

Both Cotsis and O’Brien say the particular rink’s future will depend on whether the WestInvest grant is approved, and whether the council will give the rink a long-term lease on the land rather than just month-to-month.

Canterbury Bankstown Council left the door open for a potential long-term lease for the rink, with a spokesperson saying that council had assisted the rink operators with their West Invest application.

“Council confirmed that under the Local Government Act the lease term can be up to 21 many years, or a little more under special circumstances, ” and said that it “recognises the glaciers rink has been an institution in our community for more compared to 51 years”.

The Australian Olympic Committee’s Chief Executive Officer, Matt Carroll, said that the AOC had already acted on Canterbury’s closure.

“The AOC has written to the NSW Government in support of the application by Ice Skating Membership of NSW Co-operative [COIR] for a WestInvest Community Project Grant to undertake the remedial repairs to the rink. ”

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