Sally PearsonThe Olympics weren’t half over before the hand-wringing began.
We weren’t winning enough medals, whined so many people. Enough gold medals that is, because it seems that as a nation, we’ve decided winning silver and bronze is beneath us. Seems strange that we can devalue the majority of the Olympic medals on offer, but we have.
If I was an athlete I’d be stoked to win a bronze medal. Come on, it’s not like the little ribbon you won at the school athletics carnival – it’s a bloody Olympic medal. How on Earth can you think someone winning an Olympic medal – of any colour – hasn’t performed well enough?
Maybe it was because the Games start with the swimming events and that’s a sport we’re supposed to excel at. A sport that we’ve long ago assumed to be one we’re born for, where we arrogantly assume that we’re the best – and always will be.
So let’s just conveniently ignore the fact that the US has won substantially more Olympic swimming medals than us – 520 to to our 342. And the fact that they have way more swimming gold medals than us too – 214 to 58.
Forget all that – swimming is our sport and we’re meant to win every event all the time.
When reality set in and we didn’t get all the gold on offer in the pool it was an outrage, with calls for an investigation into why our swimmers had let the country down.
It was simply unfathomable to many that we actually weren’t winning. It was like we were a nation of poor sports. Instead of moaning when an athlete won a silver or even a bronze instead of gold for Australia, we should have been gracious enough to admit the swimmers beating ours were simply better.
Isn’t that what good sports do? Act graciously in defeat? I know they certainly don’t moan about how they should have won, in the process implying that the other swimmers’ victories were aberrations.
People also seemed to turn on the athletes themselves. Having so willingly built them up and put so much pressure on them, these people then complained when the athletes failed to fulfil these unrealistic expectations.
It felt as though many Australians took our athletes’ inability to live up to our expectations (note, not the athlete’s own expectations, but ours) quite personally. It was as though they’d somehow let us down on a deeply personal level.
Never mind that the 2012 gold medal tally is actually a better than average performance for Australia. Taking into account all modern summer Olympics, our gold medal haul average is five.
The better than average medal hauls at the last three Olympics have set people up with the expectation our deserved place is on the top spot of the podium in almost every event.
I’d half expect members of the public to downgrade the efforts of our athletes who won any medal that wasn’t gold. But I was surprised that it was also the attitude of Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates who said Australia had set an objective of finishing fifth in both gold medals and on the overall medal tally. An objective the team obviously fell well short of.
‘‘My only disappointment here was of the 35 medals – one the swimmers didn’t do better and just get us a few more than 35,’’ Coates said.
‘‘The other disappointment was we didn’t nail those gold medals, it was the silvers that dominated our tally.’’
Wow, who’d have thought the head of the AOC would downgrade the value of an Olympic medal?
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.