Australia eyes third consecutive top-five finish

July 15th, 2008 - 4:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 15 (Xinhua) Australia tasted success at home by finishing fourth at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and kept the glorious position on the medal table even four years later in Athens. Now, the Aussies are looking forward to another top-five placing in Beijing. “The fact we finished fourth at the last two Olympics means there is an expectation. We had top-five objectives at both those Games, and we still do,” said John Coates, president of the Australian Olympic Committee.

And swimming is probably still the most prolific sport for Australia during the 29th Summer Olympic Games held from Aug 8 to 24.

As a country boasting more than 35,000 km of coastline, Australia gives people easy access to swimming.

Australia won 52 Olympic gold medals in swimming and seven out of their 17 golds in Athens were because of their powerful swimmers.

Although the retirement of five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe two years ago was regarded as a big setback for Australian swimming, stars such as Leisel Jones, Libby Trickett and Grant Hackett have significantly dazzled their Olympic squad.

The Australian rowing team boast of six time Olympian James Tomkins, two World Championship crews and a women’s eight that won the 2008 World Cup season.

Coming to the dry land, Australia achieved a surprising success in cycling by claiming five track and one road gold medals four years ago in Athens. In Beijing, Ryan Bayley will try to defend his crowns in the men’s sprint and Keirin races, while Anna Meares is the reigning Olympic champion of the women’s 500-meter time trial.

Australia also experienced some joyful moments in the track and field, but received bad news from star athlete Jana Rawlinson as the world 400 meters hurdles champion was forced to withdraw from Australia’s Olympic team because of a long-standing toe injury.

Therefore, it seemed that Australia could only pin its hope on walker Nathan Deakes, who held the 50 km world record and won the event at last year’s Osaka world athletic championships.

Of the total of 49 medals Australia grabbed at the Athens Games, one gold and three silver medals were from the team events.

The men’s field hockey team, expected to retain Olympic gold in Beijing, has proved its strength by winning the prestigious 2008 Champions Trophy in the Netherlands.

Besides, the women’s basketball and softball teams of Australia still have top ranking in the world.

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