Austraia finished the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeirio with 24 medals, their lowest in 24 years. Photo: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

SYDNEY, Australia - Soldiers have been enlisted to help Australian athletes perform better under pressure in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as part of a drive to win more medals.

It follows their smallest haul in 24 years at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Australia finished 10th in the table with eight golds and 29 medals overall. In a bid to get back to winning ways, members of the military will mentor elite athletes from November as part of a partnership announced Tuesday between the army and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).

The primary focus will be on improving their cognitive and physical capabilities. AIS director Peter Conde said Australia at the Rio Olympics had more athletes finish just outside the medals, in positions 4-8, than any other nation.

"The AIS sees this as an opportunity to develop our sports, athletes and coaches to help them convert more podium potential into medal success," he said. Four key areas will be tackled - mental health and wellbeing, performance under pressure, injury and illness prevention, and converting talent into high performance.

"When people think of army and sport, the image is often of boot-camps to build resilience," said Conde. "This partnership will be far more advanced, exploring education opportunities, mentoring, familiarisation techniques and strategies to deal with pressure. It's a chance to develop our top athletes' capacity to reach their peak performance and sustain that under Olympic conditions."

Around 120 athletes and coaches will take part. Army chief Lieutenant General Rick Burr said the project would also help the nation's soldiers. "Army continuously looks at how we get the best out of our people. This partnership with the AIS focusses on what we can achieve to continually improve human performance," he said.

"Through cooperation and knowledge sharing with the AIS, a respected world-leader in elite sport, we will give our people the best possible chance to out think and out perform any adversary."

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