Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here’s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Is Australia's emphasis on elite running performance justified?

By Chris Lewis - posted Monday, 16 July 2012


This article questions the current emphasis on elite performance for Australia's runners which has resulted in smaller representation at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

With more funding now going to sports and events where Australia has a greater chance of medal success, it is debatable whether tougher qualifying standards for our runners is likely to succeed.

I argue that such a strategy is more likely to deter many young runners from pursuing their dreams. Further, I argue that excluding Australian runners in this most prestigious of Olympic sports is totally out of character with the spirit of the Olympic Games intended to encourage the youth of the world's many countries to meet and compete.

Advertisement

In realist terms, a carrot and stick approach is unlikely to prevail in running as it is simply one of the most difficult of sports to win medals at the global level. While rich nations do very well at sports which require considerable resources or have much less global participation, such as cycling, rowing, and even swimming, it is only the US amongst wealthy OECD nations that regularly wins many running gold medals (see table below).

Even the mighty Russian and Chinese teams, near the top of Olympic Games in terms of medal counts, have struggled to make a major impact in running since 2000. In recent Olympic Games and World Championships, poor nations like Jamaica, Ethiopia and Kenya have fared best behind the US, far better than Australia and Great Britain.

OG and WC 2000-2011 individual medals (non-relays) for running and hurdles in selected countries (gold medals in brackets)

 

 

USA

Jamaica

Ethiopia

Kenya

Russia

GB

Aust

China

2000 OG

6 (3)

5 (0)

8 (4)

7 (2)

1 (1)

3 (0)

1 (1)

0

2001 WC

7 (3)

3 (0)

8 (2)

8 (3)

3 (1)

0

0

0

2003 WC

10 (4)

3 (0)

7 (3)

4 (2)

3 (1)

3 (0)

1 (1)

2 (0)

2004 OG

15 (4)

3 (1)

7 (2)

7 (1)

3 (1)

2 (2)

0

2 (2)

2005 WC

16 (7)

4 (0)

9 (3)

6 (1)

6(2)

1 (1)

1 (0)

0

2007 WC

16 (8)

6(1)

4 (3)

11 (4)

4 (1)

2 (1)

1 (1)

1 (1)

2008 OG

15 (3)

10 (5)

7 (4)

13 (6)

2 (1)

1 (1)

1 (0)

1 (0)

2009 WC

15 (4)

10 (5)

8 (2)

10 (4)

2 (0)

2 (0)

0

0

2011 WC

14 (4)

5 (3)

5 (1)

17 (7)

5 (2)

5 (2)

1 (1)

1 (0)

 
Advertisement

Australia, despite having an abundance of expensive all-weather tracks in its cities, struggles to win medals in running. Since Cathy Freeman won her last global championship at the 2000 Olympic Games, Australia has won just three global events, all in women hurdle events: Jana Pittman (2003 and 2007), and Sally McLellan (Pearson) (2011). Indeed, to make a semi-final in a global running race is a major achievement.

This brings me to Australia's current criteria for team selection, and whether Australia should have more representation.

On February 29, 2012, Eric Hollingsworth, the National High Performance Director for Australian Athletics, told the ABC's 7.30 Report that mediocrity will not be tolerated. He argued that the system is working with athletes "lifting to meet the standard - and those who can't, simply don't go". Hollingsworth argued that "at the end of the day, the Australian taxpayer, and the people who invest their tax dollars, want to see Australians win and do well at major championships".

But do Australians really support such an elitist approach to Olympic Games selection, or would Australians like to see greater representation? After all, the qualification rules for Olympic Games athletics stipulate that a National Olympic Committee can enter one athlete in an individual event if the athlete meets the B standard. In Australia's case, several runners were not selected despite them meeting the B standard in 2012. This included John Steffensen, who won the 400m at the Olympic Games trials during March, and Tamsyn Lewis who ran multiple B qualifiers in the 800m.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

8 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Chris Lewis has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Chris Lewis

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 8 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy