Sporting Idol: the search for Australia’s Olympic saviour
Beefing up our lagging Olympic medal tally for the Rio Games in four years could be as simple as sticking an ad in the paper.
That is how the British unearthed champion rower Helen Glover, who eased local tensions by winning the host nation’s first gold medal of the competition a few days ago.
Glover had absolutely no rowing experience until 2008, when her mother spotted an ad for something called the “Sporting Giants” scheme in the paper and convinced her to apply.
The ads were part of a British effort to recruit athletes from the general public to compete in a range of sports. At the time, the program was ridiculed in some quarters as a sign of desperation and lack of depth.
Glover’s gold medal speaks for itself. She has gone from complete novice to Olympic champion in a remarkably short period of time.
If the Brits can make a scheme like that work, anyone can. Aussies are sporty folk. There must be a huge amount of undiscovered talent out there in the suburbs just waiting to be called upon.
Everyone is having a whinge about the performance of our swimmers, with the men in particular causing a lot of angst.
In response, we just need to plaster massive ads throughout all of the major metropolitan newspapers, asking for the next Ian Thorpe to come forward.
Wanted: Potential Olympic champion swimmer. Willing to dive right in. Not afraid to make waves. Must look spanking hot in budgie smugglers.
How simple is that? There must be thousands of young lads scattered around the country who would fit those criteria.
What happened to all of the jocks we knew in high school, for instance? They certainly aren’t busy writing dissertations on metaphysics. Crack open a fresh batch of goggles and chuck the blokes in a pool somewhere, because training starts now.
Other sports would benefit from recruiting members of the general public as well. The diving squad could hand out flyers at local soccer games. Beach volleyball coaches could spend their days at Manly or Bondi, checking out the, err, talent.
And how many potential Olympic weightlifters spend their weekends playing club rugby league? Even amateur league players seem to spend half of their lives in the gym, so they would not have a heck of a lot more to learn.
Sure, it may seem a little pathetic to stick ads in the newspaper begging for some talent to come forward. But as Britain have shown us, the strategy can work.
If the people in charge of Australia’s Olympic teams are proactive enough, we may well be celebrating our own Helen Glover at Rio 2016.
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