Ian Thorpe, your country needs you in 2012
Ian Thorpe and Co have been put on notice: swimming holds the key to Australia winning next year’s Olympic “Battle of London” against Britain.
“Swimmers generally win a third or more of our medals,” Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates told the AOC annual meeting on Saturday.
Australians won a record 20 medals in the pool at the 2008 Beijing Games – 14 more than the UK.
There were no world titles last year but, on world’s best times, the margin in Australia’s favour was down to nine.
“This year’s world championships in Shanghai will provide a good guide,” Coates said.
No nation is in a position to challenge the domination of Olympic sport’s three superpowers – China, the US and Russia – but Australia is one of five countries to have fought for 4th and 5th spots on the medals tally since 1996, alongside Britain, Germany, France and Japan.
Australia had the jump at Athens in 2004, finishing fourth to Britain’s 10th.
But Australia dropped to sixth position in Beijing, two spots behind Britain.
Australia could manage only 14 gold compared with Britain’s 19, although it trailed by just one in the overall medal count.
Australia’s rivalry with the 2012 host nation promises to be one of the highlights of the London Games, and will be heightened by the return of Australia’s most successful Olympian, swimmer Ian Thorpe, after a four-year layoff.
Federal Sports Minister Mark Arbib told AOC delegates on Saturday: “The British team are throwing everything at ensuring they stay ahead of us in the medals.”
A top five finish had re-emerged as a major Australian goal since the federal government last year rejected the Crawford report’s key finding and injected $120 million of new funding for high performance sport over four years.
With funding concerns behind him, Coates said he was confident Australian athletes could “match it with the best” in London.
He has identified 10 multi-event sports likely to determine the battle against Britain – athletics, canoeing, cycling, diving, equestrian, gymnastics, rowing, sailing, shooting and swimming.
Australia hopes to maintain its 2010 ascendancy in athletics, diving and sailing, as well as triathlon, and is buoyed by its best result at the world track cycling titles in Holland, narrowing the margin against Britain in Olympic events to three.
But Britain won three medals at the world taekwondo championships in April, and outdid Australia at the recent benchmark equestrian event at Badminton.
Australia must also narrow the gap against the UK in canoeing (five medals in arrears in 2010), rowing (minus five) and gymnastics (minus one).
But the big key was again likely to be swimming, Coates said.© AAP 2013
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