Cathy Freeman
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Who is Australia’s greatest Olympian?

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Australia has competed at every Summer Olympics and is best known for its swimmers, racking up 192 medals, nearly three times as many as its next-best sport, track and field. Despite ranking outside the world top 50 in population, it is eighth in all-time Summer Olympic medals. Australia is also the only nation in the Southern Hemisphere to earn a Winter Olympic gold medal, though this list is made up entirely of Summer Olympians …

Betty Cuthbert
Track and Field
Four Olympic Gold Medals

The only person to win Olympic titles in the 100m, 200m and 400m. Even more impressive, Cuthbert did it in a span of three Olympics from 1956-64. At age 18, she had bought tickets to attend the 1956 Melbourne Games, doubting she would qualify to compete. Not only did she make the team, she swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m, earning the nickname “Golden Girl.” Cuthbert was slowed by a hamstring injury at the 1960 Rome Games, missing the medals. She returned 1964 to compete in one event, the Olympic debut of the women’s 400m, and earned another gold.

Dawn Fraser
Swimming
Four Olympic Gold Medals

Fraser’s medal haul — four golds, four silvers — would have been greater had the Olympic swimming program included the 50m and 200m freestyles in the 1950s and ’60s. Even so, she broke 27 individual world records in her career, according to Olympedia.org. She was so famous in Australia that a daffodil, rose and an orchid were named after her. Fraser’s Olympic career ended with the 1964 Tokyo Games, for she was suspended 10 years for her actions there. The alleged misconduct: Fraser marching in the Opening Ceremony (against Australia’s federation’s wishes as swimmers usually sit out before competing through the first week), wearing a swimsuit that wasn’t official team apparel and attempting to take an Olympic Flag from outside the Japanese emperor’s palace. The ban was reportedly stopped before the 1968 Olympics, but too late for her to race at a fourth Games.

Cathy Freeman
Track and Field
2000 Olympic 400m champion, cauldron lighter

Freeman’s significance goes beyond her gold medal. She was named Australian of the Year in 1998, two years before lighting the cauldron at the Sydney Olympic Opening Ceremony, a defining moment for her nation’s indigenous Aboriginal people. Ten days later, she lined up for the 400m final in front of 112,524 fans at Stadium Australia and 10 million more Australians on TV (more than half the population). In a green-and-white hooded speedsuit, she prevailed under unimaginable pressure. “Relief,” she said. “It was just relief. It was totally overwhelming because I could feel the crowd all around me, all over me.”

Rechelle Hawkes
Field Hockey
Three Olympic Gold Medals (2000)

The only woman with three Olympic field hockey gold medals. Hawkes debuted with the national team in 1985, the year she turned 18, captained the team from 1993-2000 (when they won every international event save one) and played 279 games for the Hockeyroos through her last Olympics in 2000.

Ian Thorpe
Swimming
Five Olympic Gold Medals

The Thorpedo was one of Australia’s most famous people when the nation was the world’s focus during the 2000 Sydney Games. At 17, he earned three gold medals and two silvers. He was the world’s best swimmer, though surpassed by Michael Phelps by the end of 2003. Still, Thorpe held four world records going into the 2004 Athens Games (200m and 400m freestyles, 4x100m and 4x200m free relays). He won the 200m and 400m frees in Athens, the former over Phelps and Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband dubbed the Race of the Century. Thorpe bowed out from major international competition at age 21, announcing his retirement two years later, citing a lack of desire.

James Tomkins
Rowing (2008)
Three Olympic Gold Medals

A gold medalist at three different Games. A world champion in all five sweep events. His global titles spanned from 1986 to 2004. Tomkins, during his rowing career, also earned a degree in economics and finance, surfed and worked for Bankers Trust, a large bank in Australia.

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Hockey field to hospital ward; Olympian’s life amid coronavirus pandemic

Rachael Lynch
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PERTH, Australia (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic ended any chance of Rachael Lynch competing for Olympic gold in Tokyo this year. Now she’s switching into the medical mode to take on the virus.

Lynch, the goalkeeper for Australia’s women’s field hockey team, is a registered nurse.

So after the Olympics were postponed to July of next year, Lynch applied to work as a registered nurse at two COVID-19 clinics in the Western Australia state capital.

Lynch was already working a day a week in a neuro-rehabilitation ward — part of her of work-life balance with training for elite sport. She initially didn’t have any scheduled shifts last week because the national squad — the Hockeyroos — were supposed to be in Europe preparing for the Olympics.

“As soon as we finished up on Monday I went in and saw my boss,” the 33-year-old Lynch, rated among the best goalkeeper’s globally in the sport, told the Australian Associated Press. “They’re trying to recruit as many nurses and healthcare workers as they can, because they’re anticipating the load is going to be massive soon.

“For the first time since being a graduate, I’m able to work full time” as a nurse.

Lynch has been frustrated by seeing images of people gathering on beaches in parts of Australia and others of people not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough, despite government policies to curb travel and ensure social distancing.

“Anybody in hospital for any reason, they’re now put at risk (because of that), Lynch said.

There have been more than 5,000 infections and 24 deaths in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic. Altogether, close to 940,000 people around the world have contracted the virus, according to a tally being kept by Johns Hopkins University. More than 47,000 people have died from the virus, which was first detected in China late last year.

Lynch said focusing on work meant she didn’t have time to dwell on missing an opportunity at the Olympics. The Australians were knocked out in the quarterfinals in 2016. With 150 international caps and a World Cup silver medal, Lynch is open-minded about her playing future.

“Most of the advice in the sporting world is to not make any big decisions now,” she told AAP. “I’ve reflected on the thoughts, words and emotions you might use to describe an Olympics being postponed.

“None of them are relevant now. You can’t say — devastated, disappointed or sad — because it just does not compare to what’s actually happening in the world right now.”

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Olympic champion field hockey player retires after freak head injury

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LONDON (AP) — A field hockey player who helped Britain win a gold medal at the Rio Olympics announced her retirement on Thursday after failing to recover from head trauma caused by hitting a brick wall hard while laughing at a joke.

Alex Danson-Bennett said her head injury had been life-changing “in terms of my perspective and things that have happened within my family.”

“It’s difficult because this has been my life,” said Danson-Bennett, a 34-year-old who co-led the last two Olympic tournaments in goals.

A key player for Britain when the team won Olympic gold in 2016, she was on holiday in Kenya with her now-husband, Alex, when she threw her head back to laugh at his joke and hit her head against a brick wall.

She suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, and said she had to spend 24 hours a day in bed for a few months and struggled to walk to the bathroom.

“I couldn’t bear light, sound, touch, anything,” she told the BBC in an interview. “It was almost like my sensory dials had been whacked up. Even holding a conversation, I’d have to talk very slowly.”

Danson-Bennett was told she would make a full recovery, and made changes in her personal life in an attempt to get back playing for Britain.

“Hockey has always been my priority, but I’ve come to that stage where I can’t do that and it wouldn’t be fair to the team,” she said.

Danson-Bennett said she will be Britain’s “No. 1 supporter” when the team tries to retain the Olympic title in Tokyo this year.

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