Every four years the Olympics brings an Australian spirit that the nation takes an immense pride in; this is the time where race, class and social morality becomes irrelevant under the umbrella of the country’s greatest athletes. As citizens of the nation, we can stop whilst the underdog takes out the impossible, or puts us on the highest standings of the podium. This is what we look forward to when the Games come around and this year there was no exception.
Unfortunately, however, the London 2012 Games have given Australia grief in events that shouldn’t have pained us at all. When I refer to ‘grief’ and ‘pain’, I refer to the inside and outside cultures of media and the competitors themselves. A swimmer stands on the edge of the pool, braces himself for the dive of his life, and ploughs through the water until the cheering audience and the telepathic roars of a crowd back home, bring him to the finish line. This year we have seen a different team of athletes in the pool and questions over their collective support are being raised; where is the team spirit in the Australian swim team?
The last few days I have been disgusted over the behaviour of the media and the constant bullying of swimmers such as James Magnussen and Emily Seebohm, after their disappointments in solo races last week. Neither collected gold for the country, but they both obtained shining silver medals. For Australia though, these silver medals have been tainted with the very attitudes of the athletes themselves; the country has not appreciated their achievements of at least claiming a position on the podium. Australia has become obsessed with the notion that our swimmers are not as disciplined as they need be, especially when on the world stage. So again, I ask, where is the team spirit?
Team spirit comes in a lot of different representations and traits. Mainly, team spirit is the act of supporting yourself and your team in competition and life in general.
So when the Australian swim team enters the London Games, we expect that our Aussie pride will give us that gleaming grin of ‘green and gold’ fever. Instead, we have seen Twitter drama (refer to my previous post) and misrepresentations from athletes in the media. Take for example, Magnussen, after his devastating loss in the team relay and his o.o1 of a second loss last week in the 100m freestyle to USA, was speechless when Giaan Rooney attempted to question the heartbroken 21-year old. With nothing but disappointment to omit, Magnussen was seen on camera as being unable to answer any questions and his team mates looked at him in expectance. Twitter relayed this moment as Magnussen “shrugging” Rooney off, but the reporter later reassured Australians that he had simply been “bewildered” in that moment of time.
Not long after, Emily Seebohm was faced with missing out on gold and claiming second in her event, and was seen in hysterics and tears on live television. The swimmer took to Twitter to express her disappointment, gaining abuse from followers who told the silver-medallist that she was a “sook” (again, this is written in detail in my previous post, “Tweeting for gold”). Emily later stated that she blames her loss on her obsession with Twitter and social-networking, claiming it had altered her focus on the event.
On the news earlier tonight, Channel 7 screened images of Australian swimmers partying while their fellow team mates were swimming for gold in their last few events. I recall listening to Susie O’Neil commentate the other day, expressing how disappointing it is to see a lack of Australian-ness in the Olympic crowd; no green and gold wigs, no flags…nothing. Perhaps I am being over-sensitive on the issue, but I would have thought Twitter and the pubs could have waited until the once-every-four-years event was over. I agree with the coaches, “throw those damn phones away”.
On another note, I sympathise with the athletes in track and field. Having the swimmers take the stage before them, they have been faced with the music of a poor representation for Australia in this Olympic Games. It’s unfortunate. A friend told me earlier of her disgust in the nation’s perception of silver not being a good enough achievement. It is a great achievement, but the problem is, it has been affected by the bitterness of a poor performance and unity in and around the pools. She stated that a 19-year old Australian came third in their sprint–the first from the nation to qualify in the event since 1988–but this was seen as mediocre by much of the audience back home, because of our earlier disappointments in the Games this year.
Australia is known for its swimming abilities and this year has proven we aren’t a team of elites with a perfection so great, it can make us (James Magnussen). I feel for all the athletes who didn’t reach their goals in this Games, but I especially feel sorry for the still-competing stars from our nation, who have been hit by a bus of unwelcome sourness created by the very likes of a fragmented team of swimmers.
In the words of my friend, “Maybe we are our own worst enemies in the fact that we have placed swimming on a pedestal”.