There are some medals that feel special because they come out of nowhere. Eighteen-year-old Aussie kayaker Jessica Fox is one of those. The youngest and eighth fastest qualifier in the kayak slalom, Jess wasn’t given a realistic chance of medalling. Up against the very best in the world, it was thought she was there largely for the experience against her more seasoned rivals.
But with mum and dad both former champions, the force is strong in this one. Undaunted by the occasion or by her capsize in the qualifiers, Jessica carved up the course, slicing 2.65 seconds off the time set by Czech legend Stepanka Hilgertova. After that, she just had to wait to see if anyone could beat her. Only one person could. Mercifully not a Pom.
So we added yet another – but unexpected – silver to our tally. Jess says it’s the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen. Given that the gold medals in these Games are mostly silver anyway, with just 1.34 per cent gold, I think we can say silver is the new gold, yes? And with our seven silver necklaces, third only to China and Team America, we’re doing very well indeed at these Games. Are you with me? Are you?
We also came up with something different, unusual, noice in Day Six, a bronze to Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch in a drama-packed women’s team sprint at the velodrome, or the Pringle as it’s known, in which Team GB was disqualified and the Chinese pair relegated to silver for various track infringements.
But it has to be said it was pretty lean pickings for Team Down Under today. And with only one gold from six days of competition, the Aussies are in uncharted waters. We’re all walking around looking a bit like James Magnussen after his relay swim and it’s not just sleep deprivation. We’re being advised not to press the panic button but, I don’t know, my finger’s getting a bit twitchy.
Out at Eton Dorney, our lightweight men’s four went tantalisingly close to winning a medal, any medal, but in the end we were beaten out by three bigger lightweights than us, including Team GB. There was no Hollywood ending for our Motley Crew in the women’s eight but who knows what they’ll be able to do if they keep rowing together. Kim Crow, not content with the hard yakka of competing in just one event, is now through to the single and double sculls finals and is basically a little rowing freak. Our Oarsome Foursome is also through to the final of their event, where a massive showdown with the Poms awaits.
In the pool, US superfish Michael Phelps went out on an individual high with victory in the 200-metre individual medley, becoming the first male swimmer to win the same event at three consecutive Olympics, or pull off the three-peat as they call it. In the women’s 100-metre freestyle, our own Melanie Schlanger finished just outside the medals. The lesson of these Games for our swimmers is don’t cut your nails.
Shooter Russell Mark bowed out early of the men’s double trap. Russ said at his age, he needed bright, hot, sunny weather to get a proper look at the targets, so he was never going to win in London. But at least now he can shag his wife.
In the basketball, the Boomers beat China for their first win of the Games. Our hockey girls beat Team America 1-0, with goalie Toni Cronk pulling off some heroic saves, including a penalty shot, which could prove crucial to our chances of progression. Our water polo fellas went down to Spain and face a tough assignment reaching the quarter-finals.
Team GB picked up three more gold medals in cycling, canoe slalom and shooting and it’s really nice to see the Olympic community banding together in this act of charity to ensure the home team a rare taste of victory.
As Day Six draws to a close, China remains in front on 18 gold, tied with the Yanks but ahead on silver. South Korea lies in third place with 7 gold, one ahead of France on 6, while the Brits fill out the top five. Team Down Under is in 16th place but a couple more gold would move us well up the medal tally.
It’s about this time in the Olympics, as some athletes finish their competition commitments and move on to the party circuit, that we see how hopelessly untrained they are in this discipline. Exhibit A: Aussie men’s eight rower Josh Booth who, on his first night out was detained by police for damaging a shopfront, fainted at the police station and found himself carted off to hospital. “We understand there was alcohol involved,” said our Chef de Mission Nick Green. Ya reckon?
And no wonder Lauren Jackson had no idea she’d broken the Olympic point scoring record. Turns out she hasn’t. Yet. Basketball’s international body, FIBA, has admitted it got a bit ahead of itself in attributing the honour to Jackson, when in fact she’s got 38 points to go. Should be a cinch for our Aussie flag bearer.
That’s the spirit!
Flying into London as we speak is Guor Marial, who will run in the marathon later next week as an independent athlete under the Olympic flag. Guor hails from the world’s newest country, South Sudan, and the fledgling republic has been a little too busy to set up the Olympic committee required for it to compete in the Games. Over the past few months, there have been increasingly frantic diplomatic efforts to get the IOC to change its stance and allow Guor to realise his Olympic dream.
Guor’s story reads like a boy’s own adventure gone horribly wrong. He’s been kidnapped, taken as a child slave, had his jaw broken by Sudanese police and, over the years, lost 8 of his 10 siblings to the civil war that has ravaged his homeland. He’s run just two marathons, has no coach, no sponsors, his shoes have seen better days and he’s got absolutely no chance of finishing among the medals. But that’s beside the point, isn’t it? Told of his inclusion a few days ago, Guor said: “I have to train like an Olympian now.”
Did you know?
The London medals are the heaviest in Olympic history. At around 400 grams, they’re about twice the weight of the previous standard. The heft of the things has raised injury concerns among some of the wimpier competitors in London. US bronze medallist David Boudia was cautioned by his coach: “Don’t hurt your neck, you still have to dive.” No such problem for our multi-medal winner Alicia Coutts, currently carting 1.6 kilograms of bling around her neck.
Why I’d rather be an Aussie than a Pom
No. 571: Average annual temperature in Sydney: 21.7 degrees. Average annual temperature in London: 14.7 degrees
They said it
“He is up there. But the greatest? Probably not.” London Olympics chief Sebastian Coe dispels the notion that Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time
“This is my last time competing. Goodbye Badminton World Federation, goodbye my beloved badminton. You have heartlessly shattered our dreams.” Disqualified Chinese badminton player Yu Yang blogs her retirement after the ShuttleCrock scandal
“Most of the swimming girls are reading Fifty Shades of Grey.” No wonder our Aussie girls are so racy, Alicia Coutts
“Maybe it’s because my swimming trunks are really small and there isn’t much room for sponsors’ brands.” Aussie diving champ Matthew Mitcham speculates on his lack of sponsorship support
“In a moment we’ll get to see the incredible legs of the German riders.” One of the cycling commentators, not Phil Liggett. He was right. They’re tree trunks
“I get the sense with this young lady she has no idea how good she is.” Our rowing commentators are full of admiration for Aussie Kim Crow
“Embarrassing. Hasn’t anybody got the bottle to tell him ‘Mate, sorry, we all love you, but the voice is gone.” Leo Sayer wasn’t impressed with Paul McCartney’s opening ceremony performance
“I’m addicted to the Olympic Games.” So are we, Natalie Cook, who after five Olympics is hanging up her beach volleyball bikini. Thanks for the fabulous memories, Nat.