For those of you who are already sick and tired of male olympic athletes in lycra onesies or little-boy long shorts and horrible sunglasses that make them look like insects, and endless footage of the Barbie beach volleyball, get an eyeful of one of our Olympic eventing teammates in the Dressage stage. Colin Firth, move over!
Being an unsporty person, and having a very high cynicism level already towards the Olympics and its hosts, I was quite prepared not to give a rat’s about any aspect of the actual sport. To my surprise, I find there are a couple of things I do care about.
One is the way in which the Olympic coverage and the way in which some sports are evolving perfectly demonstrate the problems facing young women who are trying to excel at a high level, but are being taught by the media and sporting bodies that it’s their, err, sporting bodies which are the marketing tool and raison d’etre of it all. More from the Hoydens about Town.
The other is the abysmal coverage of the sport in which we are just a hairsbreadth behind Germany, the acknowledged world leaders. This is a sport in which we have just gained silver in a team event lasting three days. I’m referring, of course, to the equestrian team, and specifically the team eventing.
This is an elitist activity, of course, although that stable door is open and the horse long gone (pun intended) for a lot of sports at the Olympic level. Let’s just let that balloon go for a sec and compare their treatment with that of our swimmers and ball sport athletes. Unlike the pampered darlings of the AIS, these people have had to spend years preparing not just themselves but a big, fragile, sometimes unpredictable animal for a competition in which a tiny slip can put you in a wheelchair, or kill you. Then they have had to do a three-day event which you could perhaps describe as a kind of horse triathlon, where the same horse has to perform the widest range of tasks imaginable, again with little room for error.
This is a sport where men and women compete against each other, and in teams together, with no distinctions. This time around, it was one of the female members of the team who came highest in the individual rankings (just missing out on individual bronze, unfortunately.) In addition to that, it’s one where older people can still excel. Our oldest equestrian team member is Laurie Lever- this is his Olympic debut, at 60!
And I know we Aussies are legendary swimmers, but do most Australians know how high we are in the world of equestrian eventing? How are they ever going to find out, when the equestrian coverage is just not there, and every day we’re subjected to more splishy splashy, splishy splashy from the pool, interspersed with airbrushed footage of a model-like Liesel Jones packing the Australian population in her suitcase? (Yeah, fat chance I’m getting in there with your socks, Liesel.) Yesterday, the Australian team were running second to Germany and were possibly in sight of a gold medal, but I had to search and search through the AGE to find one tiny article buried in an obscure position. I tried a tabloid, MX, and it had nothing at all. That was the point at which SOME SUPPORT FROM THEIR COUNTRY might have counted for something.
Can it possibly be a coincidence that this isn’t a sport where hot young women are hopping about in skimpy lycra cossies?
The Australian equestrian team must be so discouraged at the treatment they’ve received from the Australian media. Absolutely bloody shameful.
Here’s Megan Jones, the highest individual Australian scorer, with Irish Jester in the cross country.