Australia is a sport-loving nation and as such we measure results by success. Just ask any coach who has been sacked because the win loss ratio isn’t in their favour. At the Olympic Games this basically means we want medals or bust.
So as such, is it time we reassessed how we measure and then in turn achieve success at the Olympic Games?
Every Olympics we hear about how many medals Australia is expected to win and over the journey this tally tends to let us down more often than not. At one stage, we were meant to be topping the table by the end of the Rio Games.
Cate Campbell and Cameron McEvoy are prime examples of why predictions and poor management are dangerous aspects of the Olympics. These are the best athletes in their sport. They are record holders, champions and most of all winners. Their failure to even medal in some of their major events can be explained by nothing more than mental demons and the failure to get the right people around them.
You can argue that the Australian Swimming Championships are held too far out from the Games or that they were not prepared, did too much media, but Campbell swum well in the heats and you feel looking from afar that there wasn’t much more physical preparation that McEvoy could have done either.
You then look at the Kookaburras who have been dominant as anyone over the last few years. They didn’t medal. That hasn’t happened since 1988. The Hockeyroos and Opals all under performed too. Neither team was convincing at any stage.
No one could have blame Georgia Baker, Annette Edmondson, Amy Cure, Ashlee Ankudinoff and Melissa Hoskins for not medalling given the heartbreaking crash they had only days out from the Games, but apart from Anna Meares, our last two Olympics on the cycling track have been pretty substandard. It ends in Rio with one silver and one bronze.
So how do we fix it –
Australia loves sport. In fact we probably enjoy sport and great sporting moments more than anything else besides maybe beer and barbecues. Why can’t we put a little more funding into some of the Olympic sports to help an athlete or two out? Pull it from that plebiscite we are allegedly having over gay marriage. Really? It’s 2016, surely our politicians can work out that the country really couldn’t care who marries whom and it should be legal to marry whomever you want.
We saw what happened when Great Britain went with a funding initiative before their home games in 2012 and despite funding cuts in some areas ahead of the Rio Games, our arch rival have ridden (quite literally) that wave of confidence and momentum into 2016.
I am not talking about funding sports that we should be winning medals in either. Other tweaks need to be made there. Look at putting some more money into sports such as gymnastics, diving, water polo or beach volleyball. Taliqua Clancy and Louise Bawden made their way into a quarter final of the beach volleyball despite the sport getting more than $25 million dollars less funding than swimming. How much further could have they gone with a bit of help?
There is untapped talent out there that are not getting their chance because their sport is not supported enough by our country. It isn’t as simple as throwing money into sport and hoping that fixes the issue, but it is a start.
We live in a world now where everything possible needs to be done to get kids involved in sport from a young age and to encourage the future Olympians of this country. Childhood obesity is out of control. The only sport I’m seeing children play is Pokemon Go.
Imagine future gymnasts watching an Australian winning a gold medal and going “Yep. That’s my goal now. It is possible to do that. I’m going to strive for it.” A little funding would go a long way to achieving this. We didn’t even have a gymnastics team in Rio.
You wouldn’t believe it, but our athletes aren’t actually hand picked by Woolworths and then plonked straight into Olympic action. Bombshell, I know!
The Australian Institute of Sport needs an overhaul. What happens there now? Clearly things are not working as they should be. Is the Winning Edge program working or is it going to take more time to tell? Is it simply that the program is very good, but we don’t have the right people in the critical roles? Can we afford to give it more time or will another failed Olympics kill off a generation of current and future athletes? These are all questions that need to be asked and fast.
The other option is to scrap the pre-Olympic predictions. I mean who is making these predictions anyway? Someone on Twitter during the week cheekily suggested that perhaps it is the predicator that needs to be sacked!
Do we really need to know how many medals the Australian contingent might win. Does it really need to have a number attached to it? Why not leave us in surprise? I mean we all would have a fairly good idea anyway, but perhaps the fear of failure has really hurt our athletes over the last week.
We can’t accept mediocrity
On one hand we have all these predictions and on the other we have athletes like Bronte Campbell coming out after she failed to medal and saying that the Olympics are not about winning, but about competing.
“It’s not about winning at the Olympic Games, it’s about trying to win…Sometimes it’s trying that matters” Bronte Campbell
Yes, the Olympics are about having a go, but that sort of attitude will also give you so-so results. Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps are two of the greatest athletes of our time. When asked, after he won his third consecutive Olympic 100m race, whether he ever doubted himself, Bolt answered with an emphatic of course not. His results are as such.
I commend the way the Australian team under the very much-overexposed, but good enforcer Kitty Chiller have handled themselves over the last couple of weeks. I think though that it is perfectly fine to let athletes be themselves and to let them honestly be upset in front of the camera. Sportspeople should be able to tell the world how angry or upset they are about results or incidents. You can still be well handled while being honest.
Some of the post event interviews seemed a little bit too scripted for mine. You run the risk of turning people into robots and removing the emotional aspect of sport by doing that.
All in all, there isn’t much time to get it right, but Australia cannot afford another underwhelming Olympic Games. If London was the worst of our athletes in behaviour and performance, Rio was the unfortunate overcorrection in behaviour that yet still failed to get results. We must get it right with Tokyo 2020 now less than four years away.
My best moments from Rio will be up over the weekend.