Here’s a video of my favorite Australian athlete, sprinter Michelle Jenneke, as she warms up for her event in an Olympic qualifying race. She’s a pretty good sprinter for a white chick, but as you may have suspected, my reasons for liking her have nothing to do with her athletic ability.
Michelle Jenneke aside, I’ve always been amazed by the athletic success of Australian athletes — individuals and teams. They compete at a remarkably high level, especially when you consider the fact that the country’s population is just a little more than half of California’s. Fifty-one countries have more people than Australia. It ranks between #51 Taiwan and #53 the Ivory Coast.
Yet in the 2000 Olympics, Australia tied China for the third most medals. For god’s sake, man, China has 1.3 billion (with a “b”) people. Australia has 22 million (with an “m”). The only countries that won more medals were the United States and Russia. That, of course, means Australian athletes were more successful than those of far more populous nations such as Germany, France, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, Brazil, and Mexico.
This wasn’t a fluke. In the 2004 Olympics, Australia won the fourth most medals. In 2008, the fifth most medals. In the 2012, they faded to a still remarkable sixth most medals (which can probably be attributed to American swimmer Michael Phelps winning so damn many medals in events that are usually strong for Australians).
Last week the Aussie team won the world rugby championship. For many years they had the world’s best cricket team (and based on the way they are currently kicking the Brits’ asses around the oval, they may have the best team once again). Some of history’s greatest tennis and golf players have been Aussie.
But winning isn’t everything. And that’s why I still think Michelle Jenneke is the most remarkable Aussie athlete of them all.