BEIJING (Reuters) - Australian Olympic officials have called on their government to urgently give them more money so they can turn the tables on their traditional sporting rivals Britain at the 2012 London Games.
Australia won 46 medals in Beijing, including 14 golds, to finish fifth on the overall medals table and sixth on the gold medal table, but there was no chest-beating this time.
It was Australia’s third best performance at any Olympics, behind Sydney and Athens, but the ignominy of finishing behind Britain for the first time since Seoul in 1988 has Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) officials already plotting their revenge.
“Great Britain isn’t going to stay ahead of us,” AOC President John Coates said on Sunday.
“If they beat us in the Ashes you want to go back and get them in the next series, don’t you?,” he said, referring to a cricket contest between Australia and England.
“And that’s going to be our attitude in London.
“Top five will be the objective again, I’m sure, but personally I think our objective should be to beat the British, even at home.”
Coates, who has been trading friendly jibes with the British over the past fortnight, said the only way Australia could finish ahead next time was to increase funding and was confident Prime Minister Kevin Rudd agreed.
“We are on the same page as the federal government, the prime minister understands the importance of our Olympic team and other international teams to the reputation of Australia,” Coates said.
“He’s able to reflect in the glory of it when he’s overseas.
“I’m sure a lot was achieved by him here by sitting behind George Bush at the swimming and meeting with other world leaders achieved as much as at any round table.”
Australia’s female swimmers scooped six golds with Stephanie Rice bagging three, all in world record time, to earn the honor of carrying the flag at Sunday’s closing ceremony.
Leisel Jones and Libby Trickett also won gold in the pool and teamed up in the medley relay, which broke the world record.
Steve Hooker became the first Australian man in 40 years to win a gold medal in athletics when he soared high into the Beijing sky to win the pole vault.
Matthew Mitcham uncorked a monumental final dive to win the platform gold and foil China’s bid for the first sweep of Olympic diving titles in more than half a century.
Emma Snowsill won gold in the triathlon and Ken Wallace won gold in kayak while Australia also won two golds in rowing and sailing.
“We optimized our opportunities and we optimized our performance,” Coates said. “This team was the equal of the previous teams.
“This is a way of motivating our nation, giving young people self confidence, encouraging young people to take up sport and take greater care of their bodies.”
Editing by Jeremy Laurence