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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi At The London Olympics

Without a doubt, spectators at the 2012 London Olympics will hear this Australian cheer over and over again, from the Olympic Stadium to the Serpentine:

Leader: "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!"
Fans: "Oi! Oi! Oi!"
Leader: "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!"
Fans: "Oi! Oi! Oi!"
Leader: "Aussie!"
Fans: "Oi!"
Leader: "Aussie!"
Fans: "Oi!"
Leader (faster): "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!"
Fans (equally fast): "Oi! Oi! Oi!"

And Australian athletes nearly always rise to the occasion. Although Australia is only the 53rd largest country in the world based on its population of 20 million people, when it comes to sports, the Aussie yellow and goal are frequently finishing at or near the top.

Relatively speaking, how small is the total population of Australia? The cities of Tokyo (Japan), Guangzhou (China), Jakarta (Indonesia), Seoul (Korea), Shanghai (China ), Mexico City, Delhi (India), New York, São Paulo (Brazil), Mumbai (India) and Manila (Philippines) are larger in terms of population.

But at the 2000 Sydney Olympics (4th), the 2004 Athens Olympics (4th) and the 2008 Beijing Olympics (6th), Australia finished near the top of the medal count.

However, one sport where Australia uncharacteristically got shut out of the medals was marathon swimming. For a country that has developed many great distance freestyle swimmers in the pool over the decades and for a society that has created has the greatest number of mass participation surf lifesaving festivals, surf carnivals and ocean swims along its gorgeous coasts, this is a missing chapter of its lengthy Olympic success.

Melissa Gorman and Ky Hurst are taking the proud Australian mantle and will carry the Aussie colors in the Serpentine on August 9th and 10th.

Gorman is a serious medal contender who has the size, speed, stamina, strength and savvy to not only climb onto the podium, but also pull off a massive upset of highly favored Keri-Anne Payne. She can hang with the leaders, knows how to expertly draft off of Payne, can hold her position around the turns, and has a blazing speed at the finish.

While Hurst is long been considered to be in the top tier of the men's field, he will need to swim the race of his life to beat Thomas Lurz, Spyridon Gianniotis and Ous Mellouli. But his unorthodox training, competitive mindset, strength in holding his position and focused racing strategy gives him a dark horse shot at a medal. Since his 9th place finish in Beijing, he is now faster and can close much better than before. Given the course over the last 600 meters in the Olympic venue, smart bets should not go against Hurst if he is within a body of the leaders.

Like Olympic heroes Murray Rose in 1956 and 1960, Dawn Fraser in 1964 and Ian Thorpe in 2000, if Gorman and Hurst win the Olympic 10km Marathon Swim, Australia will burst out in celebration and smile hugely with patriotic pride. The "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!" chant will be heard far and wide.

If Gorman and Hurst do capture gold, their potential victories will be seen by a global television audience augmented by online coverage, tweets and Facebook messages. Their exploits will archived, their smiles will grace magazine covers, and their training regimens and race tactics will be analyzed. Their recollections will be recorded and repeated on television, newspapers, websites and blogs.

The personable duo, a ruggedly handsome male with striking green eyes, and the ever-smiling statuesque female with an infectious personality, would be wonderful media-friendly ambassadors of the sport.

Hurst is a true waterman, as comfortable swimming a 10 km as he is body surfing gnarly waves or paddle boarding over large ocean swells. Gorman is as comfortable swimming between buoy to buoy as she is running into the surf at an ocean festival or enjoying the company of young swimmers or older masters. Their smiles and words, so genuine, will be followed by many and inspire many more.

Australia kids will remember watching their victories and will be motivated to train harder and push themselves further.

Fans shall see on August 9th and 10th; watch for their swim caps in bright Aussie yellow among the leaders.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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