Steve Solomon catches his breath after the men's 400m final at the London Olympics
Photo: Getty Images
Steve Solomon won't leave London with a medal of any colour but his feats on the track have been the equal of any Australian at these Olympics.
And many of his more decorated Olympic teammates could learn a lot from the NSW teenager who was all but anonymous to most of us a month ago.
Solomon finished eighth - or last, in less politically correct terms - in the men's 400m final on Monday night. He was more than a second adrift of the winner, Grenada's Kirani James, and never challenged for a medal.
However, the NSW teenager did what precious few of his higher profile teammates have managed in London. He produced his very best on the big stage, running successive personal bests in his heat and semi to become the first Australian since 1988 to reach the Olympic 400m final.
Meanwhile, Solomon's more celebrated teammates were fluffing their lines. James Magnussen misfired in the 4x100m freestyle relay, world champion cyclist Anna Meares came a cropper in the keirin and Michael Diamond cracked under pressure on the shooting range.
Those disappointments fuelled rumblings of discontent Down Under, sparking angst from some in Australia's Olympic team at the criticism. And their outrage is understandable, to a degree. An Olympic medal of any colour is an achievement to be cherished.
However, the number of Australian athletes who have failed to reproduce their best at these Games is too high for any informed sports fan to be completely comfortable.
The sporting public might well have been spoilt by two decades of Olympic golden glory, as Michael Klim suggests. But is it not reasonable to expect athletes that have spent four years and thousands of dollars in government (read public) money to deliver something near their peak performance when it counts?
We're not talking about long jumper Mitchell Watt or swimmers Melanie Schlanger and Cate Campbell - the trio who so vocally defended their Olympic teammates at an AOC press conference on Sunday. They delivered when it counted, as proven by their medals. Others didn't.
We're talking about Magnussen, whose opening day malaise affected the mood of the entire swim team. About 800m runner Jeff Riseley, who was left despairing for his future in the sport after choking in his heat on Monday. About Meares, who has been a wonderful Olympic performer for years but crumbled during an event in which she was a moral certainty to medal.
Their failure to meet lofty expectations - both their own and those of the Australian public - makes the performances of those who have delivered the goods all the more important.
Solomon, marathon runners Lisa Weightman and Jess Trengove, swimmer Emily Seebohm and 400m hurdler Brendan Cole should be hailed just as enthusiastically as our victorious women's relay swimmers and triumphant sailors.
None of the quintet will leave London with a gold medal around their neck but they should all be satisfied with their efforts. And if an athlete can be happy with silver or bronze - or even last place - then who are we to demand they give us more?
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.
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