13 Aug 2008, Comments (19)

Sports refusenik posts on sport

Author: Helen

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!
Clayton Fredericks competes in the Olympic Team 3DE

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.

Australia's Megan Jones rides Irish Jester during the equestrian eventing cross country competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong

Photo from theage.com.au

Comments (19)

  • Amanda says:

    Well I was thinking just how *much* coverage the equestrian was getting. I watched a fair slab of it. On TV that is. I did search ages yesterday to find the results of the first Aust basketball match in the newspaper and ended up just doing a Google news search so the papers seem weirdly deficient in general.

  • Guido says:

    Have you heard about Gillian Rolton at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics?

    “In the closing stages of the teams three-day event, with Australia in the lead, Gillian Rolton crashed to earth from her mount Peppermint Grove during the cross country event.

    Despite the pain from a broken collarbone and two broken ribs, Rolton remounted Peppermint Grove, anxious not to let her team-mates down.

    A short time later, she fell again. Showing enormous courage, again she remounted and finished the course.

    It would have been easier for Rolton to succumb to her injuries after the first fall. Each team requires three riders to successfully complete each discipline, and Rolton, riding third for Australia, was determined to complete the course.

    After all, if she failed and the mount of the fourth rider pulled up lame, the Australians would have failed to finish.

    In the final analysis, Rolton’s efforts were not required and the Australians won gold, but her deeds are the stuff of Olympic legend.”

    Now that’s real guts.

    The whole story is here


  • I am a militant nonsporty person. Except I like shooting and boxing and I did watch Our Cadel. I like to see hwo Australia goes in those sports where being a wealthy country with swim pools heated, tennis courts, horses, and good roads and expensive bikes, don’t make too much difference. Boxing – long distance running where the desperate can win.

  • su says:

    I caught the showjumping last night – very exciting. I am glad to see the horses can have the sound muffled a bit. When the aussie horse spooked in the dressage it was just heart breaking to see that look of sheer terror. One of our local horse vets is over there for the games, lucky devil.

  • Caroline says:

    Good on you Helen. I have no television and no desire to keep abreast of the olympics, but I do love a story about horses. I listen to the radio and the swimming results make the news . .the thought of all that chlorine makes me nauseous, the ‘cube’ seems very fast. . .But horses . . . I once watched a little grey in the showjumping, don’t think it was any O event, but such courage, such pluck from the little fella, brought a tear to my eye. I think you’ve got a very valid point about the presumed lack of sex appeal in the equestrienne events, of course they are completely wrong, for horses of courses, as we know, are the embodiment of sensuality.

  • Boynton says:

    The equestrian coverage was shocking. I’ve watched it keenly since Atlanta (which from memory was the best in terms of TV time?). Last night we had to watch the close FINAL between swimming HEATS, which really broke the rhythm of a dramatic competition…
    Discovered too late that 774 was covering it too.

  • Fine says:

    First time I’ve posted here, but I love the horsey stuff. I once went over a cross country course in Ireland where their 3 day event team practice. I only fell off three times. It was great, But never again. I as on this huge Irish hunter – half Clydesdale and half Thoroughbed. It was like riding a battleship.

    I think they look really sexy in their dressage outfits. The only sport in which the competitors where top hat and tails.

    And of course you’re right Helen. Australia has such a long history of winning medals in this and no newspaper coverage.

  • Helen says:

    Yes, Guido, yes yes YES… Gillian Rolton at Atlanta, the epitome of guts and courage. That’s what it’s about, and so few people seem to know or remember. Thank you for bringing that up! It was bravery personified.

    Oh, another thing I meant to mention and forgot – they didn’t seem to televise the medals ceremony for the 3DE, or else it was televised so late I missed it. Amanda, could it be that the TV coverage is differnt in Sydney? I read the Cyberhorse forum and saw the disgusted comments there so I knew it couldn’t be just me. And now there are complaints up on the Yahoo or Fox Sports board (can’t remember which) as well. Gawd, fancy me clicking around these sites, I’m like a foreigner in a strange sporty land.

    FX, our “other” sport is Taekwondo which Boychild does. The Taekwondo starts on the 20th and you might like to make that your nonsporty choice also! There is a guy from Afghanistan called Nisar Ahmad Bahawe and to my shame I forget the name of the Iraqi guy, but they have of course faced enormous obstacles in even getting to the Olympics. The Iraqis were caught up in some bureaucratic nightmare which must have broken their hearts. There is a thing going to supply TKD gear to Afghanistan but I’ve lost the link…

    Su, that was Shane Rose on All Luck, not well named for that day. It’s said he might have either got a bug in his ear or spooked at a large TV screen near the dressage arena. But the way he moved, like ballet on four legs. except for the spook of course. That couple of moments put Rose at the bottom of the team thereafter poor bugger. It’s the same for many Olympic sports – I’d find them like watching paint dry ordinarily, but at that level, it becomes magical because of the amazing execution, and that certainly applies to equestrian because of the sheer beauty of movement.

    Yes you guessed it, I’m channelling my inner pony-mad schoolgirl – it’s not a bad way to be on two days off with a cold 😉 and Fine, you’re very brave, I’m in awe.

  • Amanda says:

    That was just my impression – when I turned it on a few times a day I saw a lot of the equestrian, but obviously that is completely subjective. People with a more specific interets in the sport are probably keeping a track more definately. I don’t doubt the Cyberhorse people would have real reason to feel disappointed.

  • The horse chiropracter says:

    Who knows ? Maybe the tremendous expense of horse ownership precludes it from being popular- for possible participants and the subsequent possible supporting, viewing public.
    I mean why isn’t the Polo shown on TV ? Blatant discrimination against rich people’s sports .
    We were travelling in Ireland in 2004 and the only Olympic footage on TV was the horse riding events.
    Their team managed a bronze , the only medal won by Ireland and so I suggest that you take the family to Ireland in 2012. Better for all concerned than wittering on about your uncomfortableness witnessing the fabulous diversity supported by the general population here through their wide and varied appreciation of lots of different sports..

  • Helen says:


  • kate says:

    I suspect the sports that do best on the telecast are what we like to call “5 minute expert sports” at our house. Diving, gymnastics, swimming, running etc, the stuff you can look at and understand the principles of in less than a few minutes. Equestrian is complex, I’ve watched a lifetimes worth of Olympics and I’ve got no idea how it works or what makes the difference between a good performance and a bad one. The diving on the other hand, I can figure out very quickly (bashing your head against the board is bad, no splash is good).

    Australia have been the best in the world in netball for decades, it’s among the most played sports in the country, and yet it never gets on the telly. Not even with skimpy outfits.

  • Amanda says:

    Foxtel broadcasts the trans Tasman netball comp and I’m sure ABC has played Tests and whatnot. Couldn’t pay me to watch the thing but it does get on the telly.

  • Ozymandias says:

    Don’t know what coverage you’ve been watching Helen. I switch on once every four years hoping to see a bit of fencing, but only ever seem to catch the dressage. Sport? Highly skilled, for sure. But it looks more like dance to me.

  • Helen says:

    I think that’s what’s called Murphy’s Law.

  • Helen says:

    Read this story! 60 years old! Olympic debut!!!
    This is just so interesting.
    Boychild does Taekwondo -not much on the news front about that either. Not that I’ve been terribly Olympics-minded in the last few days. My dad, hero, age 88, walked 5 and half K’s around the You Yangs on Saturday. We had to help him with the steeper bits (which were not very steep.) BTW, for those of you who are now picking up the phone for the Elder Abuse hotline: Totally his idea. He should get a medal.

  • Fine says:

    Aww! I just love this quote.

    “At the moment I’m just trying to ride him a little bit carefully to make sure that he enjoys the experience,” he said.

    That’s a real horseperson for you.

  • Ozymandias says:

    Yup, Laurie Lever’s is a good story. Switched on last night just in time to see him ride. Now horses jumping over stuff -that’s sport. Though I reckon riders and horses should have to switch places for one round and see who survives. Who was 7’s ‘expert’ commentator for the jumping? What a moron, with his constant ‘Oz-traya’ and his horrible off-key musical puns.

  • Anodyne says:

    Not just Rolton, Horsetralia has a long history of injured riders continuing and winning.
    Bill Roycroft did it, and also his daughter-in-law.
    He, of course, rode and won in FOUR consecutive Olympics – a genuine Champion.

    I saw Aust and the German jump their rounds and couldn’t breathe for stress. Am housesitting in November where there is a dressage menage.

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