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Why do Australian Olympians fail to perform on the big stage?

What is with Australians who are favourites in their events and not performing at the Olympics?

Throughout the build-up to an Olympics, all eyes are on Australian athletes and the public try places huge expectations on them to perform. But not only that, the athlete’s themselves expect to perform, however, for whatever reason, recently in the past two Olympics, it seems that this modern generation is unable to perform on the world stage.

Australia is renowned for producing some of the greatest sporting athletes in the world and their teams are well known for being some of the best ever. But for some reason in modern times, Australian athletes haven’t been able to produce with the eyes of the world on them; at the Olympics.

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There is no doubt in arguing that Australia has been known for being strong at the Olympics, particularly in the swimming events. This is where Australia has produced the likes of Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Dawn Fraser just to name a few. But in recent times, Australian’s have failed on the Olympic stage in the past two games, and our medal tally has taken a hit as a result.

Stars such as the Campbell sisters, James Magnusson, and Cam McEvoy come to mind when thinking about who has failed when they were clear favourites in the pool. Even in the BMX, riders such as Caroline Buchanan and Sam Willoughby were heavy favourites at the past two Olympics, yet failed miserably on both occasions.

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Is it just pressure and the expectation of a nation which gets to these athletes? Because for some odd reason, it seems athletes who represent Australia that are not expected to do all too well perform better on the grandest stage.

Take Steve Hooker for example at the Beijing games in 2008. There was next to no talk about him in the lead up to the High Jump event and only when he reached the final was there talk about the possibility of him medal. And sure enough, Hooker won the gold medal.

Then at these games, Chloe Esposito surprisingly won the modern pentathlon, and again there was no talk and expectation placed on her to perform, yet she walked away with the gold medal and delivered at the Olympics. As well as this, Kyle Chalmers came from seemingly no where to take out gold in the mens 100m freestlye; ousting favourite and fellow countryman Cam McEvoy.

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Can Australian athletes cope with the pressure? Or is it just this new generation influx which can’t handle the expectation at the Olympics? Do they even take the Olympics seriously anymore, is that the problem perhaps?

Let’s take a look at some stars who have had huge pressure and expectation placed on them by their home countries, but on the contrary to Australian athletes, have actually performed and excelled at the Olympics.

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Usain Bolt comes to mind. The champion sprinter from Jamaica, Bolt has carried the hopes of a nation at the past three Olympics, taking out Gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at all three of the games. And what makes it better, no one has ever done this, ever. So to carry on the expectation and handle the pressure time and time again is a testament to the kind of athlete he is.

Another which comes to mind is the legendary swimmer from the United States; Michael Phelps. Phelps is the most successful swimmer in history, taking home 23 gold medals with 28 overall, unbelievable! And likewise to Bolt, he did this with a huge weight of expectation and pressure on his shoulders.

So with these Australian athletes who continuously fail at Olympics despite high expectations? Perhaps, it is a mixture of age and placing too much pressure on them to perform. Because from what it seems, not only are the Australian supporters and media putting pressure on the Athletes by placing these expectations, but it’s the athletes themselves and their coaches.

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Take Cam McEvoy for example; he skipped the 4x100m relay just so he could be mentally prepared for the 100m freestyle. And guess what happened? He didn’t even medal.

It can be certainly said then that the way the Australians go about preparing themselves for the Olympics is farcical, and maybe they need to put winning for the team as whole before giving their all just individually. Also, it is the attitude which needs to change as well.

This attitude Australian athletes have about how it’s not about winning and it’s all about the person you are (paraphrasing Cate Campbell). This needs to change, and quite quickly too. Because put simply, it is your job to go out there and perform; and by perform, win.

Australian athletes need to have a look at the attitude and preparation they do in the lead up to do the Olympics in order for themselves and the country to rightfully achieve the success they warrant and deserve.

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