The Australian men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay team has let their country down by not getting Gold in the final. In fact they didn’t get a medal of any kind. They came fourth out of the entire world, a performance that’s about worthy of a four-way public lynching, as inferred by most anchors on Australian breakfast television this morning.
The team made up of James Roberts, Eamon Sullivan, Matt Targett and James Magnussen had been touted as unbeatable favourites with Magnussen the current 100m world champion taking the opening leg; but after his surprisingly slow start the rest of his team mates never successfully made up the gap. In the end the Gold went to the French team, silver to Team USA and bronze to Russia.
The team was visibly gutted. After the race Magnussen was interviewed poolside by Giaan Rooney who asked what had gone wrong, and the swimmer was rendered speechless. “I’ve got no response really. I don’t know what happened.” he told her.
This team had such outrageously heady expectations placed on them it’s no wonder the result left them devastated. When it comes to Australian sportspeople – and with swimmers in particular – the importance placed on winning Gold far outweighs any alternative result, including personal best performances.
The relay team’s loss was the number one news headline in Australia, meanwhile the Australian competitors who actually won medals were relegated lower on the pecking order of importance; like Christian Sprenger who won Silver in an exciting 100m Breaststroke final, and Alicia Coutts who won Bronze in the 100m Butterfly.
These athletes have so much pressure to win Gold placed upon them by the Australian media that, instead of being proud to represent their country with the support of the nation behind them, they are shouldering expectations that must make the fear of failure absolutely excruciating. After Stephanie Rice finished 6th in the 400m individual medley final she tearfully apologised on camera in her post-race interview with Grant Hackett saying “More than anything, I hope I haven’t let anyone down.”
Can we please stop demanding Gold from these poor people? Let’s just be proud of them and offer support without holding them to any obligations on the Australian medal tally.
Photo by Adam Pretty, Getty Images.