Whenever the Olympics is on, I become an armchair expert at the swimming. You see, I was a swimmer as a young’un, therefore my expert hat appears every 4 years. So getting up at 5am and ignoring all my other TV shows for a week becomes standard fare in my household. I have to say, all my squealing and clapping my hands at the TV (and possibly waking my neighbours downstairs) has not resulted in the plethora of medals the Aussies have been expected to take home.
I’ve noticed two things in the media over the last few days in relation to the results in the pool at the Games. The first, is headlines like “Freestyle Relay Loss Australia’s Darkest Swimming day” (news.com.au) and the second is the reaction of the public to the media headlines about the swimming.
I’m going set a cat among the pigeons here and say the sentiment the media is proffering is understandable. The media may have been unreasonably savage – I concede that. Some of the articles and headlines have been ludicrous. But, personally, I think the underlying disappointment of the public in the pool results is not unreasonable.
The reaction I have seen on Twitter regarding Emily Seebohm’s silver win goes something like: “You are the second best in the world, you did WIN, GOOD GIRL“. Whilst I theoretically agree with this sentiment, Emily Seebohm wanted to win. She desperately wanted to win and her disappointment in placing second should NOT be criticised. This is her passion, she loves it. The goal of competitive sport, at least at the Olympic level, is to win. She performed brilliantly, silver is a HUGE achievement. She, and we, should be proud. But the simple fact is, she wanted to win gold – she did not want to come second. She has a right to be upset and disappointed.
For at least the last 3-4 Summer Olympics, Australia has done extremely well in the pool. Our swimmers are legendary. Thorpie, Madam Butterfly, Michael Klim, Samantha Reilly. Who can forget sitting in their lounge room screaming “Go Go Go!” at the TV watching Thorpie and boys bring home the 4 x 100m freestyle relay in 2000? I even have a few tears of pride in my eyes just thinking about it! Susie O’Neill winning the butterfly in 1996 and freestyle in 2000? Stephanie Rice in Beijing?
Australians have come to expect winners in the pool. The reaction by the media is, at its base, as simple as that. For the last three Olympic games, we have consistently placed second in the pool medal tally, being beaten only by the mighty Team USA. We produce champion swimmers. The swimmers know this and have the weight of the country on their shoulders. That is a lot of pressure.
Cadel Evans had to withdraw from the Games on the basis of extreme fatigue. He has not been picked apart by the media the way the swimmers have. Likewise, any medals we win in the athletics will probably be accompanied by headlines of “Aussie GOLD/SILVER/BRONZE!” in great exuberance and elation. My theory is: Australia doesn’t have huge expectations on their cyclists or athletics competitions the way they do on their swimmers. Because the precedent has been set in the last 3 Olympics, the expectations have risen and the expectations haven’t been met in London so far.
I feel disappointed for the swimmers and for the watching public. Being an Olympic athlete is a phenomenal achievement. Just being there is more than most other human beings could ever hope to achieve. Thisis a great achievement. I am not saying it is not. But I don’t think it is unreasonable Australians are disappointed that the expectations set by the predecessors are not being met. Just ease off on the headlines. Please.
What do you think? Is there is too much expectation placed on Aussie swimmers? Are you even watching the Olympics?
- Ian Thorpe and Homosexuality: Is It Any Of Our Business? by Rose Russo
- What’s More Exciting? Landing On Mars, Or The Olympics? by John James
- My Olympics (or The Loudest Noise I’ve Ever Heard) by John James
- I Owe My health to Stephanie Rice by Rose Russo
- The Royals, The Olympics, And Australia by John James
Whippersnapper has written 37 posts.