ALO Column: John Eales
27 March 2012
Rugby Great John Eales has led Australia to as many Bledisloe Cup wins as he will have Olympics. The World Cup-winning skipper was an Athlete Liaison Officer (ALO) for the Australian Olympic Team during the 2004 and 2008 Games and returns for a third Olympic campaign in 2012.
From creating history as captain of the Wallabies in their first ever victory over the British and Irish Lions, Eales is now on hand for another almighty Battle of London. The former rugby lock is responsible for motivating and mentoring athletes in athletics, badminton, basketball, canoe/kayak – sprint, judo, tennis and all cycling disciplines (BMX, mountain bike, road and track).
Eales has already been out to training camps and selection events including men’s basketball and women’s canoe/kayak – sprint as the athletes prepare for their final selections- poignant and pivotal moments on the road to the Olympics.
What has the feeling been like in camps?
It has been great because you just get this sense of excitement about what is happening and what is about to happen. People always use the term ‘four years’ but it is actually more than that. If you are going to the Games you have probably had a focus for significantly longer than that- honing your skills when you are younger and developing the passion for your sport.
I think initially the feeling about the Games is nervousness at wanting to be a part of the Team and wanting to get over that last selection hurdle. Then I think the athletes will probably let themselves get a bit more excited at that point because until you are actually there, you are not there. That is the way I have always felt with sport.
Having been there before, what is it about these Olympics that gets you particularly excited?
London is English-speaking for a start which will make it a little easier to get around and find your way. But I think it is the history part of it. London hosted the Games in 1908 and 1948- there is a lot of history there.
I mean Beijing was wonderful, Athens was wonderful, but all for different reasons and I think London will be different again and being Australian we know London so well. Coming from rugby we played England so much- and often in London- it will probably bring back some memories as well.
Will that rivalry play a big part in these Games?
I am sure the rivalry will get a lot of attention- especially in the media. I think for the individual athletes though it won’t play a big part. Everyone jumps on board and wants us to get better results than them (the Brits), but when it comes to an individual competing that shouldn’t be what they are thinking about. They should be thinking about their performance against their rival, whoever they are, wherever they come from.
Do you have a hands-on role mentoring athletes?
Our role is just to be there. It is not necessarily to formally conduct sessions but just to be there when people may need you. You are there to step in and provide whatever sport they need.
Are there any particular athletes that are getting you excited leading to London?
The swimmers are getting some good attention at the moment and that is great to see. It is a really exciting time- we have had some great results in sailing and the rowers are stacking up really well. Even going to the women’s canoe/kayak - sprint camp you could see the excitement they had and they want to go better than they went last time- and they went pretty well last time!
As told to Taya Conomos