Greg Ansley: Aussies 'diabolical' feats flogged

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Australia's Leisel Jones competes in a women's 100-meter breaststroke swimming semifinal. Photo / AP
Australia's Leisel Jones competes in a women's 100-meter breaststroke swimming semifinal. Photo / AP

Australia's Olympic chiefs could do well to think about issuing Kevlar vests to their team.

With unexpected failures in the Games' opening days, the media flak is already flying as the nation's performance dips below the trend needed to give it the forecast fifth in the final medal tally.

There were the sideline dramas: unflattering photos and fitness doubts about veteran gold medallist, swimmer Leisel Jones; spats about selections and a hissy fit by relay runners John Steffensen and Josh Ross; a gender row over the flag bearer, settled when triple silver medallist Lauren Jackson became the first female in 20 years to carry it; the caning indigenous light heavyweight boxer Damien Hooper took for wearing a T-shirt displaying the Aboriginal flag ...

And then the men's 4x100m freestyle team, led by golden boy James "the Missile" Magnussen, copped a flogging and sent the media ballistic.

Assorted commentary highlights included "diabolical", the "biggest defeat since Gallipoli", "an Australian missile crisis", "swimming's darkest day" and the "greatest swimming disaster since 1912".

In the Financial Review columnist Alan Stokes said of the reaction: "Thank Christ James 'the Missile' Magnussen didn't lose to a Pom or a Kiwi".

The women's hockey team did just that, of course, with their opening 1-0 defeat to New Zealand, and Beijing gold medal rowers David Crawshaw and Scott Brennan were pipped by Kiwis Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan in the double sculls.

There were warnings Australia might not do as well as at previous Olympics.

Even bankers pitched in. ANZ chief economist Warren Hogan and foreign currency strategist Andrew Salter said the Aussies were usually "vastly more successful" when the dollar was weaker and, given the muscular aussie, they predicted the nation would finish 16th in the final medal count.

Australia had been placing great hopes on its swimming strength - hence the poolside despair - and in cycling, now hit by the withdrawal of Cadel Evans, last year's Tour de France winner.

It is still early days and Australians have been collecting more medals in the pool, with the nation's tally at the end of Tuesday's events reaching six - one gold, three silver and two bronze - placing it 12th overall.

But the consensus headline so far is "disappointed".

- NZ Herald

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