Michael Gleeson, London August 14, 2012
Steve Hooker looks on after competing in the men's pole vault final. Photo: AFP
THE failure of Australia's middle-ranked athletes and the disappointment of team captain Steve Hooker were the reasons Australia managed to win only half the number of medals it had set itself, athletics officials said, reflecting on the end of the Games.
In the post-mortem of Australia's performance in track and field, Athletics Australia president Rob Fildes admitted he had been overly ambitious in setting Australia a six-medal target after Beijing and that it was realistic for Australia to win between three and five medals at future Olympics.
Australia won just three medals in London - Sally Pearson's gold and silvers for Mitch Watt and Jared Tallent - down from four in Beijing. A range of athletes had sub-standard performances, but head athletics coach Eric Hollingsworth and Fildes pointed to the efforts of the middle-ranked athletes, including the throwers, in explaining why Australia had not done better.
Australia will now set up a middle- and long-distance running centre with discussions to be had with running coach Nic Bideau about possible involvement, as well as a speed centre to foster sprinters and hurdlers. The specialist centres follow the success of the jumping centre based in Brisbane under coach Gary Bourne and the pole-vaulting centre in Perth under Alex Parnov.
All aspects of the high-performance program will be reviewed, including as a matter of course the position of Hollingsworth, who is contracted until the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 and is almost certain to remain in his job until then. Fildes said an additional position would be created, with Hollingsworth's administration role given to another person to enable him to spend more time working directly with athletes.
Fildes said he would not continue as president and chairman of the board of Athletics Australia through to Rio. His tenure ends in November next year and he would not renew as chairman. He was less certain about the president's position.
''I set a target of six medals after Beijing and that was over-ambitious on reflection.
''We are considering three to five as a more realistic target for the future,'' Fildes said.
Outside the medal performances, teenager Steve Solomon made the 400 metres final, Dani Samuels, Benn Harradine and Hooker all made the finals but not the top eight or the first cut in the final. Kaila McKnight and Zoe Buckman in the 1500 metres and Brendan Cole and Tristan Thomas in the 400 metres hurdles made the semi-finals but could not progress further.
''We were eighth on the medals table, exactly the same as Beijing, and 13th on the placings table and we were 12th in Beijing. From a performance point of view we've consolidated our position … but we probably haven't capitalised on the opportunity to move even further up, particularly on the placing table because of the disappointments of the middle range of athletes,'' Hollingsworth said.
''The middle-to-top range of athletes haven't quite been able to step up from their Daegu performances … and we've under-performed with the bulk of our distance runners, with no one making a final. And the throwers … that's the thing that is disappointing from my point of view, there weren't enough of our team lifting themselves above the ordinary.''
He said Hooker, as a proven champion who was unable to get a medal, was one of the clear disappointments of the Games.
Hollingsworth said Team GB provided the ''clear example'' for Australia, which needed to be more ruthless if it wanted to improve performance.
He pointed to the problem of the Australian Olympic Committee wanting to take the biggest team possible every Olympics, a philosophy he said ran counter to elite performance.
Hollingsworth said Australia lacked the hunger of other countries to perform.