London Olympics: Aussie hoighloights Day 4

Some bloke called William Arthur Ward, who made a living out of writing inspirational quotes, once said: “Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” And as Day Four dawned in London and the 100-metre freestyle heats beckoned, the question on everyone’s lips was: Can Magnussen bounce back?

Course he can! Big strapping Aussie lad like that, he’s not going to do a sooky la-la like a certain British road racer with the same nickname. He’s going to come out and get on with the job, isn’t he? And there he was back on the pool deck, that broad smile plastered across his face and with something new in his kit bag to show the world. Humility. It suited him.

Magnussen attributed Sunday night’s relay meltdown to nerves, the shakes, a racing heartbeat and two nights without sleep (just when the athletes have been told they can’t take Stillnox any more). Yep, that’ll do it. I know how he feels. I haven’t slept in about four days and I don’t think I could break 48 seconds either.

But break 48 seconds he did, to become the fastest qualifier for the final. More encouraging, we got to see his famed back end surge for the first time this meet. Not such good news for teammate James Roberts, who had set the world’s second fastest time coming into these Games but will now be cheering Magnussen on from the sidelines.

Alicia Coutts now has a medal of each colour to her name after taking silver in the 200-metre individual medley. She was beaten by Chinese teenager Ye Shewin, whose performance in the 400-metre version of the same event, where she took five seconds off her personal best time and came home faster than the fellas, has raised more than a few eyebrows. Stephanie Rice threw everything at the final to come fourth and was too knackered to get out of the pool.

In the 200-metre freestyle, Bronte Barratt came from a fair way back to snag the bronze, touching out the in-form swimmer of the meet, Missy Franklin, by one-hundredth of a second. She was a pretty happy camper with that effort.

US superfish Michael Phelps had the 200 metres butterfly absolutely in the bag until the very final stroke, when he was touched out by one of his biggest fans, South African Chad le Clos, by five hundredths of a second. Phelps threw off his swimming cap in disgust. Nevertheless, with his silver medal he becomes the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, which is nothing to be sneezed at. And if he wants to know why he hasn’t bagged an individual gold this meet, he should read Hot Goss below.

Out at Eton Dorney, there’s something of a fairytale going on for our women’s eight. After the Lay Down Sally debacle of Athens and a last place finish in Beijing, the Aussies haven’t had a women’s eight in world competition for the past four years. But Rowing Australia dusted off the boat in March, cobbled together a bunch of chicks who’d never rowed together and, lo and behold, the self-dubbed Motley Crew have made it into the final and who knows what could happen from here?

Lleyton Hewitt punched well above his weight to take out 13th seed Marin Cilic in the tennis. That’s the good news. The bad news is he now plays world number two Novak Djokovic. Still, stick Lleyton in a green and gold shirt and pretty much anything could happen. Loves his country, that lad.

In the eventing competition, Team GB came very close to winning its first gold medal of the Games. Instead Zara Phillips takes home some silverware, in case the Royals are short of that kind of thing.

As Day Four draws to a close, the top three positions on the medal tally are unchanged. China now has 13 gold medals, with the US on 8 and the French on 4. Team Down Under lies in 12th position, nine paces ahead of Team GB.

That’s the spirit!

Malaysian shooter NurSuryani Mohamed Taibi joined an elite Olympic club on the weekend, competing in the 10-metre air rifle while eight months pregnant. NurSuryani says she felt her daughter kicking during the competition. “But I said to her: ‘OK, be calm, Mummy is going to shoot now’.” Ah, the soothing sounds of gunfire in utero.

Hot goss

Rumours in the Olympics village are that something’s going on between Stephanie Rice and US basketballer Kobe Bryant. Let’s hope so because it could really help the Boomers campaign. Rice has put something of a black widow’s curse on the sporting careers of past boyfriends. I present as evidence:

  • Exhibit A: Eamon Sullivan – the red hot favourite in Beijing was beaten by a Frenchman in the 100-metre freestyle.
  • Exhibit B: Quade Cooper – probably still has nightmares about his shocker of a Rugby World Cup. I know I do.
  • Exhibit C: Michael Phelps – snogged Rice four years ago. Hasn’t won an individual Olympic gold since.

They said it

“I’ve learned more about myself in the past two days than I have in the past 20 years.” A new James Magnussen emerges from the rubble of defeat

“He’s my hero. Still is. I love the guy. I’ve always looked up to him.” Didn’t stop you pinching Michael Phelps’ 200-metre butterfly gold though, did it Chad le Clos?

“It is so heavy. It’s ridiculous.” Bronte Barratt of her bronze medal

“Any time someone has looked like superwoman in the history of our sport, they have later been found guilty of doping.” US coaching official raises questions about China gold medallist Ye Shewin

“They want to run so that they intentionally fall down and reveal [their figures].” The first ever inclusion of women in Saudi Arabia’s Olympics team has prompted some histrionic responses on Twitter

“No wonder they call us whingeing Poms. What did he expect, everyone to wave us through?” Team GB cyclist Mark Cavendish gets a smackdown from the British press after blaming the Aussies for his road race loss

“Wanted. Gold medal.” Front page headline in UK paper, The Sun

“He just needed a little bit of a reminder that he is on a global stage.” Aussie Chef de Mission Nick Green after reprimanding indigenous boxer Damien Hooper for wearing an Aboriginal flag T-shirt into the ring. The Olympic charter bans such political statements. Because the Olympics is above politics, you know…

“I’m going to really fight for this one. I want it pretty bad.” So do we, James Magnussen, so do we


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