May 15, 2011 / 8:28 AM / 8 years ago

Olympics-Australia target beating Britain on their doorstep

SYDNEY, May 15 (Reuters) - Australia’s Olympic chief has fanned the flames of the country’s fierce rivalry with Britain by targeting its athletes as the ones he most wants to beat at the 2012 London Olympics.

Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates acknowledged that beating the British on their home soil next year was a tough ask, local media reported.

He insisted, however, that doing just that, and finishing in the top five on the medals table, would be Australia’s goal in London.

“It’s going to take a massive and combined effort beating the British at home,” Coates was quoted as saying by the AAP news agency. “But we are going to give it one real shake.”

Coates told the AOC’s annual general meeting in Sydney on Saturday that the Australian athletes would expect to medal in gymnastics, rowing, sailing, shooting and swimming.

“We are both strong in triathlon,” Mr Coates added, referring to the British and a projected medals table in which the hosts were forecast to come fourth and the Aussies eighth.

“We’ve medalled in tennis at every Olympics since it was re-introduced in Seoul in 1988.

“We have strong medal chances in the team sports of women’s basketball, men’s hockey and women’s water polo and women’s hockey also improving.”

Coates called on Australia’s swimmers, traditionally serial gold medallists, to step to the plate.

“Swimmers generally win a third or more of our medals,” he said, suggesting results in the pool could make the difference.

“This year’s world championships in Shanghai will provide a good guide.”

Australians won a record 20 medals in the pool at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — 14 more than British swimmers.

China, the United States and Russia are expected to dominate the medals in London but Coates wants to set the record straight after Britain beat Australia in Beijing.

Britain finished an impressive fourth in 2008 with 19 gold medals, Australia dropping to sixth with 14 gold.

Australia, given a psychological boost in swimming by Ian Thorpe’s return, finished fourth at the 2004 Athens Games with Britain lagging behind in 10th.

Federal Sports Minister Mark Arbib told AOC delegates: “The British team are throwing everything at ensuring they stay ahead of us in the medals.”

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by John O’Brien; To comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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