Top five target remains our future goal

Published 22 August 2016 (AEDT)

Gold medallist Kyle Chalmers. © 2016 Getty Images

RIO 2016: A top five position on the Olympic medals table remains a realistic goal for Australia despite falling “well short” of ambitions in Rio, chef de mission Kitty Chiller has declared.

Australia’s 2016 Olympic team finished with eight gold medals, the same as at London in 2012, and 29 medals overall for tenth position, six medals and one place lower than London.

“This is well short of where we wanted to be,” Chiller said.

But the Rio Games showed  that a “top five or six for Australia is not a pipe dream”.

“In retrospect it shows us that it was a realistic goal, and there was a genuine opportunity here to edge back towards that top five.

“Rio has reminded us that Olympic medals are not easy to come by.

“Our efforts here were very, very often close but fell just short.”

The women’s basketball, water polo and football teams, and the men’s basketballers, were all beaten in “nail-biting” finishes, and she noted that cycling and swimming fell short of expectations.

“When you under-perform in elite sport, the blame game always follows,” she told an end-of-Games news conference, but added: “I am not in the blame game. The athletes gave 100 per cent. That is all that counts.

“There have been many stand-out and break-through performances, and that should be the focus.”

Australia’s highlights included:

*the women’s 100m freestyle swimmers winning gold in a world record time;

*teenager Kyle Chalmers coming from nowhere to win the men’s 100m freestyle;

*walker Jared Tallent’s silver medal making him the nation’s most decorated male track and field Olympian;

*a world record in the team pursuit for silver, and a bronze in the Kierin to Anna Meares - making her Australia’s most decorated cyclist and the only Australian to win individual medals at four Olympic Games;

*women’s rugby sevens winning on the sport’s Olympic debut;

*the first Olympic medal ever in modern pentathlon, a gold to boot, won by Chloe Esposito;

*rowing’s first gold since Beijing through single sculler Kim Brennan;

*shooting’s first gold since Athens in 2004 through Catherine Skinner;

*equestrian’s first medal since Beijing in 2008 in the team three-day event, and

*archery’s first ever team medal.

“There is much to celebrate and be proud of,” Chiller said.

“I could not be prouder of the team culture. We achieved the team spirit, respect and camaraderie we were looking for. That has been an enormous win.”

She said Australian officials had ensured the athletes had the “very best chance of success” in a “performance-focused environment” and off-field incidents such as security problems and an athletes’ ID card drama had no effect on performance.

Of Australia’s 422 athletes in Rio, 71 will return home with a medal after winning or sharing in the 29 medals won.

Swimming accounted for three of the eight golds and 10 of the 29 medals overall, despite some key disappointments.

The sailors put in an outstanding performance, with four medals going to seven of the 11 team members in Rio. Rowing won three medals overall and athletics and track cycling two each.

Walker Dane Bird-Smith won Australia’s 500th medal of all time, and Chloe Esposito the nation’s 150th gold.

Apart from the 29 medallists, 61 Aussies finished in fourth to eighth spots.

A total of 23 personal bests were achieved, 11 in swimming, 11 in aths and one in archery, as well as one world record, three world junior records and three Olympic records.

The Rio team also won medals in several sports that were barren in London - modern pentathlon, archery, shooting and the new sport of rugby sevens.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Doug Conway

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