Aussie Olympians urged to stick it to the Poms
Aussie athletes and officials have stoked the rivalry between Australia and Great Britain, with speculation that the home nation might not be able to deal with the increased pressure and expectations.
UNCONSTRAINED by the diplomatic niceties expected of team bosses, Aussie Olympic gold medalist Matthew Mitcham made a blunt assessment of Australia’s Olympic rivalry with hosts Great Britain: “I think we always want to stick it to the Poms.”
Mitcham’s characteristically forthright Aussie taunt adds spice to the Games-within-the-Games battle between the motherland and its former colonials which starts in earnest in London this weekend.
The Beijing 10m platform gold medallist has also talked up the hometown pressure being felt by his British rival Tom Daley.
Australian Olympic team boss Nick Green was more reserved when talking about the host nation, but also warmed to the theme of stress on British athletes.
“The expectations on the home athletes sometimes builds up a great deal of pressure,” Green said on Monday.
“If they can handle the pressure of the locals and the expectations of performing in the host country, then they should do well.
“If they don’t it might be a different story.”
Australia makes no bones about its aim of reclaiming a top five spot on the medals table at Britain’s expense after dropping to sixth in Beijing.
Britain finished fourth in 2008 with 19 gold medals to Australia’s 14, although its overall tally of 47 medals was just one more than Australia’s.
“Host countries always win more gold medals than the time before,” said Green.
“In Beijing Great Britain had its best Games for a long long time. Considering they won one gold medal in 1996, they have come a long way.
“Our rivalry is historic. It will continue at the Olympic Games and it will continue post Olympic Games.”
Australia’s team experienced mixed fortunes this week, in the lead-up to the London Games.
Men’s hockey favourites the Kookaburras outclassed the rising young Belgians 3-0 but the men’s basketballers endured their third straight loss, going down 87-71 to lesser-ranked Brazil.
Pole vaulter Steve Hooker and triathletes Erin Densham and Emma Moffat lifted team spirits with stirring performances but there was heartbreak for horseman Shane Rose and a sharp reality check for the Hockeyroos. - AAP