Athletes defend medals won

5 August 2012

TEAM: Olympic gold medallists Cate Campbell and Melanie Schlanger and long jump silver medallist Mitchell Watt have reminded the media to focus on the achievements of the Australian Olympic Team rather than criticise their lack of gold medals in London.

Australia has won one gold medal at the halfway point of these Games as well as 12 silver and seven bronze medals which deserve to be celebrated.

“They only give out one gold medal and they only give out one silver and one bronze,” Campbell said.

“It’s not through lack of trying or lack of preparation or lack of leadership or lack of coaching that we maybe haven’t performed as well as Australia expects us.

“There is nothing wrong with a silver medal. What’s wrong with standing on the podium?

Campbell, who won gold on the opening night of the Games in the women’s 4x100 metre freestyle relay, reminded journalists at today’s press conference of what it takes to succeed at this level.

“I think it’s maybe almost a little bit hurtful when people say we’ve been underperforming because we go out there and we pour our heart and soul into every single performance and it’s not that we haven’t been performing, it’s just that the world has stepped up,” Campbell said.

“You look at last time we were at the very top of the world and they’ve just reined us in and hopefully we’ll be doing the reining in next time, and that’s just the way it goes. It goes in waves and it’s not through lack of trying that we haven’t produced many gold medals.

“You’ve also got to remember we are only a nation of 22 million people. We’re a very small country and to really hold some serious ground on the world stage is very, very impressive and I think we all have to be very proud of what Australia has produced because we have a very small pool to choose from.”

Campbell’s teammate Melanie Schlanger, who finished the Games with a gold, two silvers and a fourth place, said the difference between public adulation and criticism was a very fine line.

“The thing that people forget is that gold medals are incredibly hard to get,” Schlanger said.

“As Cate said there is only one gold medal and we came very close in a couple of events. James Magnussen was only a hundredth of a second off, Em Seebohm was a tenth or so. If you add that up, maybe point one off two extra gold medals, and the attitude of the country at home would be a lot  different right now. We’d be in that top ten and we’d probably be called a successful Team. Point one between the difference between being slammed and being praised is quite harsh I believe.”  

Mitchell Watt won the long jump silver medal overnight, but the first question he was asked after medalling on his Olympic debut was whether he was disappointed not to win gold.

“The team is happy, I’m happy, the head coach is happy. I’ve got thousands of messages from people back home that are happy. The only ones that are not happy are you guys. You need to wake up,” Watt said to the media.

“I don’t think people understand, to jump a personal best you need good conditions, a good prep.

“For example for our long jump we normally have a day break between qualifying and the final.

“So we had 22 hours between qualifying and the final, on pretty much a very bad sleep and headwinds on the back straight and people are expecting us to jump personal bests, it’s just not realistic.

“I don’t know hardly anyone ever that’s jumped a personal best at Olympic Games for those reasons and I think people have got to start to understand that it’s not easy to win an Olympic gold medal and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a silver medal.”

Dave Lyall in London

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