Zali Steggall, a former Olympic athlete who is internationally recognised as Australia’s most successful alpine skier, has announced that she will run as an independent to challenge Tony Abbott for his seat at the next federal election.

Steggall represented Australia in four Winter Olympics before her retirement in 2002, receiving a bronze medal in slalom at the 1998 games in Nagano. She was awarded an Order of Australia in 2007, and currently practices as a barrister in Sydney.

Speaking with Fairfax after announcing her candidacy, she said:

“I am in this to win it. I want to beat Tony Abbott, who has been a handbrake on Australian progress on many fronts but, particularly, effective action on climate change. I know what I am getting into but I am not a wallflower – I am tough. I learned from sport that you have to put the work in, and can’t just turn up on the day hoping for the result. I will do the work for this, just as I did the work for sport and law.”

Her campaign has enlisted prominent environmentalist Tim Flannery as an adviser on climate change policy.

Vote Tony Out, the Northern Beaches community group which aims to oust Abbott from his long-held seat of Warringah, has officially endorsed her candidacy.

“[She] is a very rounded local and will be a fantastic candidate for Warringah,” said spokesman Mark Kelly. “She is not a divisive candidate like Tony Abbott.”

Abbott has held Warringah since 1994, and there was a two percent swing towards him in the last federal election, but Vote Tony Out is hoping that Steggall will win community support.

Her campaign launch will be held today in Balgowlah.

Source: The Guardian
Image: Getty Images / Patrick Riviere