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Seconds count, but all we really want is first

Seconds count, but all we really want is first

Sat August 4, 2012 1:55pm

In Atlanta 16 years ago, a huge billboard prominently displayed in the Olympic city spruiking the wares of a sneaker company proclaimed: Second is the first loser. Thus, upon this supposedly altruistic event was imposed the very American notion that second place sucks.

In Atlanta 16 years ago, a huge billboard prominently displayed in the Olympic city spruiking the wares of a sneaker company proclaimed: ‘‘Second is the first loser.’’ Thus, upon this supposedly altruistic event was imposed the very American notion that second place sucks.

So what to make of an Olympics that, for Australia, has produced a small regiment of what we once called ‘‘Silver Streaks’’, ’’Silver Bullets’’, ’’Silver Linings’’; the customary cheery headlines for the plucky runners-up?

As of Friday night, Australia had won nine silver medals. Or, as the sneaker company’s copywriter might put it, had lost nine golds. The latest Australians to occupy the second step on the podium were the rowing pair Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley, and the men’s 4000m pursuit team, both beaten by the impressive British.

Australia’s sole gold medal, in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, was achieved on the opening night of the swimming program. Since then basketballer Liz Cambage, who became the first woman to slam-dunk at the Olympics during the Opals victory over Russia, has been the only Australian to soar  over the opposition.

Mostly, it has been an opening week characterised by the bewilderment of James Magnussen, the tears of Emily Seebohm and the conflicted grimace of the other silver medallists, who seemed uncertain if they had failed or achieved. As cycling pursuit team member Jack Bobridge put it: "For four years we’ve only had one goal, and that was to step on top of the podium. So we’re pretty disappointed now.’’

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