The Olympics that got away from Australia
Magnussen's missle men misfire in men's 4x100m relay (CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP)
Come August 13, we may very well look back on these Olympics as the ‘one that got away’, as it will remembered for a myriad of near misses.
My personal pre-games prediction was for 10 gold medals and a ranking around 10th. Now I am perhaps down one gold on my own tally at this point, so I might have to revise my own predictions.
I am a born optimist and would love to see the haul in the mid-teens, but I think public and media expectations pre-games may have been falsely inflated due to using the past three Olympics as benchmarks.
However, when you take out medal winning machines like Ian Thorpe in Sydney and Athens and Stephanie Rice in Beijing out of the equation, things look hollow pretty quick. Their multiple individual medal hauls was topped up by them being the force behind relay wins.
It is highly probable that Australia could finish the swimming with just the single gold but a bag of silvers and bronzes. Minor medals are tremendous achievements in themselves considering the changing of the guard between the stalwarts and the youngsters, and the fact it indicates competitive depth across several disciplines, especially the relays.
Although James Magnussen believes he can make amends in the 50 freestyle tomorrow, expectations again could false knowing that it is the second 50 of his 100 metres that is his forte, not the first. The open water 10km race could be the remaining race that could spring a surprise gold for Australia
Apart from the finger nail touches for silvers and bronzes in the swimming, the biggest ‘slip up’ has been the equestrian team. Going into the cross country ranked second another shot at a gold was a distinct possibility. We will just have to blame the green lush slippery turf of England for that one getting away
Giving us a get out of jail card so far has been Team GB. With so much hype surrounding their expected medal tally, being the home team, opening their account yesterday with two gold medals has allowed the nation to draw breath again.
To be fair, Great Britain need to equal or exceed Australia’s total of 16 gold in Sydney, rather than focus winning more gold in London. The tally at the home games should be the benchmark for comparison for the bragging rights of the unofficial Olympic Ashes. The 11 gold that Team GB won in Sydney is what Australia should be hoping to match or exceed in London.
Let us not forget it was not that long ago, 1996 Atlanta, where GB only won one gold and finished in 36th place. The home team hype may have already backfired with the spectacular miscalculation of the Team GB in the cycling road race.
Where the Brits will well and truly have the wood on Australia is in the track and field as they have perhaps four genuine gold medal chances. The best of these is the poster girl of the games, heptathlete Jessica Ennis.
Perhaps a realistic expectation for Australia now is one gold each in track cycling, hockey, either men’s or women’s, sailing, rowing, athletics and maybe topped up with one in diving and the women’s water polo.
However, with each passing day without a gold, the pressure mounts on the athletes to follow.
I wrote an article some weeks ago about the nation’s expectation being the biggest hurdle Sally Pearson may have to get over. By August 8, it could be immense.
Ten gold would be par. Any more and we are in birdie territory and it should be something to celebrate for a country again punching above its weight.