Get Down On Your Aussie Knees And Thank God For New Zealand

It had to happen. It always does. When the Aussies crap out they steal a Kiwi, or all of them.

The did it to Phar Lap, Split Enz, Prince Tui Teka and even Russel Crowe until he started behaving like an Ocker.

Aussies even invented a word designed to steal Kiwis as their own – Australasian. An Australian is a Kiwi who beat an Aussie at something.

As Ausfailure’s London Olympics turn to custard the poor long suffering Ocker sports fan has been forced to use the term ‘Team Oceania’ in order to hide how sh!thouse their own team is,

Even the nation’s newspapers are no longer hiding the fact that if you are an Aussie and you want to get onside with a winner, you’ve simply got to forget about the green and yellow numbnuts and get on the Kiwi bandwagon.


Every long white cloud has a silver lining for Team Oceania

Silver medal ... Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley.Silver medal … Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley. Photo: AFP

In Atlanta 16 years ago, a huge billboard prominently displayed in the Olympic city spruiking the wares of a sneaker company proclaimed: ‘‘Second is the first loser.’’ Thus, upon this supposedly altruistic event was imposed the very American notion that second place sucks.

So what to make of an Olympics that, for Australia, has produced a small regiment of what we once called ‘‘Silver Streaks’’, ’’Silver Bullets’’, ’’Silver Linings’’; the customary cheery headlines for the plucky runners-up?

The real challenge to Australia’s sporting self-esteem has been issued by the Kiwis who, with three gold medals (all from rowing), were perched seven places higher than Australia on the medal table.

As of Friday night, Australia had won nine silver medals. Or, as the sneaker company’s  copywriter might put it, had lost nine golds. The latest Australians to occupy the second step on the podium were the rowing pair Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley, and the men’s 4000m pursuit team, both beaten by the impressive British.

Australia’s sole gold medal, in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, was achieved on the opening night of the swimming program. Since then basketballer Liz Cambage, who became the first woman to slam-dunk at the Olympics during the Opals victory over Russia, has been the only Australian to soar  over the opposition.

Mostly, it has been an opening week characterised by the bewilderment of James Magnussen, the tears of Emily Seebohm and the conflicted grimace of the other silver medallists, who seemed uncertain if they had failed or achieved. As cycling pursuit team member Jack Bobridge put it: ‘‘For four years we’ve only had one goal, and that was to step on top of the podium. So we’re pretty disappointed now.’’

In explaining why silver medallists often look less happy than those who win bronze, American philosopher William James wrote, more than 100 years ago: ‘‘So we have the paradox of a man shamed to death because he is only the second pugilist or the second oarsman in the world. That he is able to beat the whole population of the globe minus one is nothing; he has ‘pitted’ himself to beat that one; and as long as he doesn’t do that nothing else counts.’’

National Public Radio in the US noted there had been psychological studies made of the glum expression of silver medallists. ‘‘It was because silver medal-winners compare themselves to the athletes who won gold, and feel they came up short,’’ they noted. ‘‘By contrast, bronze medal-winners seem to unconsciously compare themselves to people who didn’t win a medal at all.’’

In London, Australians are finding themselves constantly compared to the buoyant British who, by Friday night, had won eight gold medals. Losing the so-called Olympic Ashes should not be unbearable given the British – heavily funded by lottery money and making the most of home field advantage – had been expected to do well, just as Australia excelled in Sydney.

Although, with Australia so often second best, the jubilation of the Brits was becoming a touch hard to stomach. About the only place the Team GB has failed is at the pool, where local heroine Rebecca Adlington finished third in the 800m freestyle. That left the British without a swimming gold medal. Otherwise, with even traditionally demure BBC commentators bellowing their support, the change of sporting fortunes between Australia and Britain seems complete.

Yet, even worse for Australia is looking up the medals table and seeing Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedic muse Kazakhstan (four golds) looking down. So too are Cuba (two golds), who are leaving the Australians both close, and with no cigars.

But the real challenge to Australia’s sporting self-esteem has been issued by the Kiwis who, with three gold medals (all from rowing), were perched seven places higher than Australia on the medal table. Which, in time-honoured tradition, will prompt us to embrace the spirit of great Australasians Neil Finn, Russell Crowe and Phar Lap and to note that, with four gold medals, Team Oceania is doing quite well.

Meanwhile, the pressure builds on those Australian athletes still given a chance to reach the top of the podium. Particularly Sally Pearson, whose appearance in the 100m hurdles might be the most anticipated (non-Freeman) run by an Australian woman in the main stadium since Raelene Boyle’s cruel double false-start disqualification at Montreal in 1976.

At those Games, the Australian men’s hockey team were favourites to win what would have been Australia’s only gold medal. They lost the final 1-0 to New Zealand.Disaster? Not at all. Just another great moment in the proud history of Team Oceania.


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