Let’s be honest, it never really feels like the Olympics till the track and field gets underway. It’s where the real egos of the Olympic movement strut their stuff and the shorter the distance they cover, the bigger the swagger. It’s where some of the greatest moments of sporting history, good and bad, have been written. It’s also a fabulous perve fest, where we can admire musculature and form without the obstacle of pesky things like swimming pools and clothing.
Our champion hurdler Sally Pearson doesn’t get on the track till next week but she was out of the blocks early in the talking herself up department, saying her competitors had ‘so much catching up to do’ to lay a glove on her. Maybe I’m a bit gun shy but to me it had shades of James Magnussen’s ‘brace yourself’. Fingers crossed it doesn’t all end up in the same puddle because we really need her to bag that gold.
The Aussies have sent their biggest and most hopeful contingent of 52 track and field athletes to these Games and they’re going to have to perform out of their tree to salvage some respectability for Team Down Under’s medal tally.
Speaking of which, Eton Dorney proved our happiest hunting ground on Day Seven, with our double sculls pairing Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley picking up silver. The British press and Crow’s Pommie rivals have been waiting for her to crack under the pressure of her gruelling two-event schedule but then, they don’t have the proud Aussie ticker that beats in Kimmy’s chest. The woman’s a machine. Her post-race interview was conducted on a rowing machine as she warmed down in preparation for her single sculls final tomorrow.
Our Aussie boys Dan Noonan, James Mcrae, Chris Morgan and Karsten Forsterling took out bronze in the men’s quad sculls. Three of the lads were part of the team that finished fourth in Beijing and they were determined not to go there again. The boys were off to do some sculling of a different variety and confident that, unlike teammate Josh Booth, they wouldn’t be sent home in the process.
Over at the Pringle, it was yet another silver for our men’s team pursuit of Jack Bobridge, Glenn O’Shea, Rohan Dennis and Michael Hepburn, though Anna Meares had a tactical brain snap to finish fifth in the keirin. Believe it or not but with a silver and bronze in London, we have exceeded our Beijing cycling performance.
In the pool, we were treated to Michael Phelps’ last ever individual swim in the Olympics and he saved something special for the end, taking out the 100 metres butterfly gold. We were hoping for a fairytale finish for Meagen Nay in the 200 metres backstroke but it wasn’t to be. Commentator Ray Warren described US winner Missy Franklin as a ‘superstar in the making’ but I reckon with four medals, three of them gold, she’s already made, Rabs.
It was heart attack central in the women’s basketball, with the Opals holding out the Russians by just four points to advance to the quarter finals. One of the highlights of the game was Aussie giant Liz Cambage pulling off the first dunk in Olympic women’s history, a move she hadn’t even performed in practice.
Also dishing it out to the Russians were our Aussie water polo girls, who remain undefeated in their competition. The Stingers have attracted a lot of attention for their tough physical play, which has included breaking the rib of a Pommie opponent. Accidentally, of course. In the hockey, our Kookaburras had a tough 2-all draw with Argentina and, though also undefeated, are yet to confirm their place in the semis. But the Aussies have hit their straps in the sailing, sitting first in three categories and second in another as the regatta nears its conclusion.
Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro had a big man hug after their marathon 19-17 third set. Roger now takes on Andy Murray in a repeat of the Wimbledon final just a few weeks ago. Let’s hope it’s a repeat in every sense of the word.
And finally, some good performances from our track and field team, with Mitchell Watt and Henry Frayne channelling their kangaroo heritage just when they needed it to make it through to the long jump final and Dani Samuels waiting till her last chuck to qualify for the discus final in fourth place.
On the medal tally, Team America has moved to the top of the tree for the first time, with 21 gold, followed by China on 20 and South Korea on 9. I’m not going to tell you who’s in fourth place because it’s too depressing. Our efforts to corner the world’s silver market continue to pay dividends and we remain competitive with China, Russia and the US on that front, while sitting 19th on the medal tally overall.
That’s the spirit!
Wodjan Shahrkhani’s Olympics lasted just 82 seconds today. But while sporting records may be out of her grasp, the teenage judoka has set a more enduring milestone as the first female athlete ever to compete for Saudi Arabia, where religious leaders claim exercise interferes with a woman’s natural role as a housewife.
The IOC’s coup in bringing the Saudis to the fold almost came undone with Wodjan’s insistence on wearing a hijab in competition. Really, you’d think they would have seen that one coming. In a last-minute compromise, she was allowed to wear a tight fitting black cap.
Not everyone has welcomed Wodjan and her countrywoman Sarah Attar’s Olympic inclusion. The women have been subjected to some pretty unsavoury tweets under an Arabic hashtag that translates to ‘Olympic whores’. But Wodjan soaked up the moment today: “Unfortunately, we did not win a medal but in the future we will and I will be a star for women’s participation.” You go, girl.
Did you know?
London Olympic officials are banking on some pretty frenetic post-competition bonking, handing out 150,000 condoms to the athletes. We’ll leave the last word on this one to London mayor Boris Johnson: “‘Inspire a generation’ is our motto. Not necessarily ‘Create a generation’ … which is what they sometimes get up to in the Olympic village.”
Why I’d rather be an Aussie than a Pom
No. 1001 (thanks to a reader for this additional contribution): The Aussies have Hugh Jackman. The Poms have Hugh Grant.
They said it
“I definitely rank myself number one, and everyone else is second. My personal best is so much faster than everyone else. They have so much catching up to do.” Sally Pearson challenges her competition to catch her if they can
“That’s the classiest race I’ve ever been part of.” Aussie rower Kim Crow shows her class, commending the British competitor who has bagged her for competing in two events
“A couple of us will probably retire. But, who knows, we might get bored and be back in the boat in a month.” Aussie quad sculler Dan Noonan after the boys won bronze
“The Australians play their tough physical game if it is allowed.” Team GB’s water polo coach Szilveszter Fekete reckons it shouldn’t be allowed. Suck it up, Szilveszter.
“You can’t explain to someone what the Olympics is like. It’s the Olympics.” Thanks for clarifying that, Aussie swimming coach Leigh Nugent
“If you get caught you fail two tests – a drug test and an IQ test.” Former World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound gives us the encouraging news that 90 per cent of drug cheats get away with it and only the real dopes get caught
“Look, they’re doing the Tour de France at the same time.” My seven-year-old notices all the bikes riding along the banks at the rowing regatta. The kid’s seen a LOT of sport these past few weeks and knows ‘Bradley Wigglebum’ by sight
“I just want to sing my anthem….dear God PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!” Aussie spectator Kelli Field, who’s been trawling London venues in search of Aussie gold