COMMENT: Australians have always been known for their mateship yet recent events at the Winter Olympics in South Korea have shown us to be critical, unfriendly and childish. This is not who we are and those involved need to wake up to themselves.
For the most part the PyeongChang Winter Olympics has been a truly world-class event with Australians punching above their weight securing results we, in one of the warmest countries in the world, could have ever expected at a winter event.
Yet, some athletes have taken the opportunity to criticise, shame and be unsupportive of others within the Australian team in an unprecedented way.
Take snowboard cross silver medallist Jarrod Hughes and Alex Pullin as example one. After the two have been locked in a behind-the-scenes war of words over the past five years, around funding and media exposure, following the snowboard cross final everything has gone public.
Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, a 2011 and 2013 world-champion in the sport, publicly snubbed the 22-year-old medallist after the event, leaving commentators and Australians scratching their heads over the odd lack of praise. Pullin didn’t congratulate or even acknowledge Hughes after the event which saw the former world champion fall after getting caught in a gust of wind.
Pullin was not the only Australian to seemingly snub Hughes, not one of his other team mates joined him to celebrate his great achievement in a world-class event. Our politicians, with all their faults, still have the grace and honour to call their opponent on election night to congratulate them on their victory.
The second example is that of Olympian and former Stilnox user James “The Missile” Magnussen and his intervention into the treatment of winter athletes, comparing their treatment to those of their summer counterparts.
The former world-champion and Olympic medallist made ill thought comments about what he described as the preferential treatment of athletes that did not meet the expectations that was placed on them.
In particular, he took aim at snowboard halfpipe bronze medallist, and Australian flag bearer, Scotty James for what he perceived as being judged “less harshly” than summer games athletes.
“They certainly seem to take a different mental approach at the Winter Olympics,” he said on Fox Sports.
“As a result we, as the public and the media, are judging them less harshly than we may judge a (summer) Olympic athlete,” he said.
“If Scotty James was a swimmer going into that event as the world champion and expected to win, and he got bronze, how would we be reacting to that?”
In response to ‘The ‘dud’ Missile’s’ controversial comments, Olympic gold-medallist Lydia Lassila hit back with a stinging rebuke to the swimmer who has previously cracked under the pressure of high level competition.
“He’s in an indoor sport. He doesn’t have to deal with changing conditions, changing variables. He can come any day and try and do what we do — not against the best in the world — but against the extreme variables that we’re facing.
“Actually forget about it, he’d probably cry,” she told reporters.
While the response hit the nail on the head, it is sad that it has come to this with some of Australia’s most high-profile athletes taking public barbs at each other.
This is not who we are.
As Australians we have always celebrated inclusion, mateship and togetherness. We should be celebrating any achievement made in winter sports being from one of the hottest countries on earth.
We should not isolate team-mates, we should remember who we are as a nation and what Australians have always bought to international sporting arenas, a clear team spirit and good sportsmanship.