GREAT BRITAIN’S surprising gold rush at the Beijing Olympics is causing a stir “Down Under.”
It seems the rivalry between Britain and Australia is not confined to the cricket field.
The Aussies currently hold The Ashes – the urn awarded to the team that wins the Test cricket series between the two countries – and has dominated the Poms in just about every sporting pursuit.
In the last four Olympics, they have won considerably more gold medals than the Brits. But that could be about to change in Beijing.
As of today, Great Britain has won 16 golds to Australia’s 11 and stands third in the medals table behind China (43 gold) and the USA (26).
Traditionally, Australia has been strong in the pool. But for the first time since 1976 in Montreal, the Australian men’s swimming team failed to win a single gold.
Australia has also been good at cycling in the past but Britain has wiped the floor with them in the velodrome, boosting their total medal haul on the bike to 14.
Aussies outswum, outcycled and outrun by the Poms
To rub salt in the wound, the British cycling coach Shane Sutton won gold at the 1978 Commonwealth Games – for Australia!
Apparently, top-level coaches can earn five times as much in Britain as they can in Australia.
Australian sports minister Kate Ellis, who described the Poms as a bunch of “serial chokers” before the Games, is being forced to eat humble pie.
And John Coates, head of the Australian Olympic Committee, has conceded that with five days of competition to go, they might be edged out by the Brits.
Not bad for a country that has virtually no Olympic-standard swimming pools or cycling tracks and very little sunshine to train under compared to Australia!
The Aussies, it seems, have become a victim of their own success. The Australian Institute of Sport, set up after the disastrous display in the Montreal Games, has become the role model for Olympic Committees throughout the world.
And with the next Summer Games being staged in London in 2012, the Brits will even have home advantage.