Weight off her shoulders
Meantime, present company excepted, the best story out of the Olympics so far is the Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, winning the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal in its history – in the women’s 55kg division. Did you see the footage? Diaz burst into tears and had to be helped from the arena she was so overcome. This is the fourth Games for the 30-year-old, and she initially trained by lifting barbells made out of pipes with concrete weights on each end! After competing in the first two Games without troubling the scorer, she won silver at Rio in 2016, and since then has opened her own gym in Zamboanga City, but has been stuck in Malaysia for much of the pandemic due to restrictions. And this time she won! From earning 630 pesos ($17) a month in her role as a sergeant with the armed forces, she is set to receive 33 million pesos ($890,000) as a reward from the government and private sector. The Philippines has lost its nut, and it is wonderful to see.
League on its own
A good man, Peter Beattie, who did a great job for league, and I won’t hear a word against him. On the subject of having league as an Olympic sport at Brisbane 2032, however, he misses the point.
“Seriously, forget about bipartisanship,” he told my colleague Adrian Proszenko. “If you walk down the main street in Brisbane or walk down the mall in Townsville, and you asked what the number one sport is, everyone would say rugby league. It’s a unique opportunity to advance rugby league.”
No doubt, Peter. But for a proper Olympic sport it ain’t the main street of Brissie or Townsville that counts. The point, surely, is that if you walked down the main street of Santiago, Moscow, Taipei, Tokyo, Brussels, Reykjavik, Chicago, Nairobi and Cairo they not only won’t put it number one, it would be the most unheard of sport they’ve never heard of. What is the point? Outside of Australia, NZ, a little in PNG and the north of England the sport is barely played. Including it in Brisbane is an absurdity, and I don’t want to hear another word about it. At least with cricket or rugby – both of which have already been Olympic sports – you’d get a quorum of serious nations to make a real contest of it, and the other sport would be netball, which would fit with the general rise of women’s sport globally.
A jab well done
On the other hand? On the other hand, bravo to the NRL for being pro-active about getting their players vaccinated. TFF had a rant last week on the sheer insanity of professional footballers of all stripes in this country not being vaccinated – particularly when there are vials of AstraZeneca lying unused the shelf. This week Danny Weidler broke the story on Nine News that the leaguies are about to move on it, having a big push to get those players who are willing to have the jab.
Hopefully, they will be as public as possible on Instagram and all the rest which should help the public regain confidence in the much-maligned AstraZeneca vaccine.
Here was Australian surfer Steph Gilmore after her gutting Olympic elimination: “That’s just the nature of surfing. We are always dealing with the ocean and sometimes the waves come, sometimes they don’t. You’ve just got to accept that and, yeah, just got to accept that and, yeah, just so frustrated. But that’s the way it is.”
Pretty good. But let the record show, it was that greatest of all goofy-footers, the aforementioned English surfer of four centuries ago, Willie Shakespeare, who said it best:
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
A worthy night out
As if you didn’t know, the Chappell Foundation (TCF) are hosting their 4th Annual Sleepout tomorrow night, the start of “Homelessness Week”, to raise money to help them. Because of COVID lockdowns, there will be no sleeping under the stars at the SCG, with participants instead sleeping “rough” in their own backyards or on their balconies, to express their solidarity with the young and homeless. Over 30 elite athletes, and your humble correspondent besides, are participating – and they include Louise Sauvage, Greg Chappell, Matthew Hayden, John Maclean, and John Eales. You can sponsor me here.
What They Said
Ariarne Titmus’ words when she looked up at the big screen at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre to see she had won gold for the 400m freestyle: “Holy shit.”
Kaylee McKeown, after securing her gold, in a race that included her childhood inspiration Emily Seebohm: “F– yeah! I mean, woo!”
Joh Griggs in commentary for Channel 7, rises to the occasion: “It’s the first time we’ve seen a Seebohm and an ‘f-bomb’ in the same race.”
Robyn Titmus on her daughter: “God she can race.”
Titmus, later in the week: “I’m absolutely buggered.”
Dean Boxall, on his wild celebrations channelling the wrestler the Ultimate Warrior, after his charge, Titmus, won gold: “I lost it. I think I went outside my body. I just lost it. That’s a moment of being with this girl for five years and having a dream together. The Americans might not like it, I don’t know. But I bleed with my athletes … There’s nothing bigger. Arnie can’t represent Earth against Mars. This is the biggest for us. To see it take fold – I just completely lost it.” He lost it. We loved it.
Aussie relay swimmer Thomas Neill on winning bronze: “I wasn’t going to give away the medal. A bronze medal at the Olympics, as Matty Johns said in 1997 [after the Knights won the Grand Final], it’s better than Lego.”
Alyssa Mills, keeping it real after husband Patty was accorded the honour of carrying the Australian flag for the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics: “If he can carry the flag, he can carry the garbage out.”
Leisel Jones on American breaststroker Lilly King: “She said an American swimmer would win every women’s gold medal at these Olympics — and she got bronze.”
Zac Stubblety-Cook on coming from nowhere to claim breaststroke gold: “You can only be an underdog once. I had that luxury today.”
Simone Biles: “You have to be there 100 per cent. If not, you get hurt. Today has been really stressful. I was shaking. I couldn’t nap. I have never felt like this going into a competition, and I tried to go out and have fun. But once I came out, I was like, ‘No. My mental is not there’ . . . I had to do what’s right for me and not jeopardise my health and well-being. We have to protect our minds . . .”
Novak Djokovic being asked about Biles’ withdrawal due to mental health: “Pressure is a privilege. Without pressure there is no professional sport. If you are aiming to be at the top of the game, you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments.” Too harsh, or an inconvenient truth? Discuss.
Piers Morgan tweets on Simone Biles: “Are ‘mental health issues’ now the go-to excuse for any poor performance in elite sport? What a joke. Just admit you did badly, made mistakes, and will strive to do better next time. Kids need strong role models not this nonsense.”
British diver Tom Daley on winning gold at his 4th Olympics and he’s only 27! “I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion. I feel empowered by that because when I was younger I thought I was never going to be anything or achieving anything, or achieve anything, because of who I was.”
US women’s rower Ellen Tomek on there being no crowds: “When you cross the line and you’re hurting, and you feel like you are going to pass out and you don’t hear the ‘USA! USA!’, chant it hurts a little bit more.”
QRL Chairman Bruce Hatcher, reflecting on Queensland’s own bubble breach with Jai Arrow: “We did everything we possibly could do save for having armed guards outside our rooms. They are men and I don’t know what you do.” You make it clear: keep it in your pants or, with everything that is at stake, we will do to your career what you risked doing to the competition.
West Coast coach Adam Simpson: “We just don’t have that anymore, and you’re more inclined to go safer in the draft and you’ll draft the same type of player. You know, mum and dad are still married, the kids go to the private school. They’re not too much of a hassle off-field.” There was hell to pay.
Peter V’landys wants league to be part of Brisbane 2032: “If it’s ever going to happen, that’s when it will happen because rugby league is one of our national sports and should be part of it.“ Nup. And it’s not going to happen. (See item.)
Team of the Week
Jess Fox. The ‘Riff’s finest. Gold in the C1 canoe slalom final. Pour l’anecdote, she graduated from Blaxland High School a decade ago, with an ATAR of 99.
Ariarne Titmus. The Tasmanian is two golds and a bronze to the good so far! Among other achievements, she is just the third Australian woman to win the Olympic 400m freestyle joining Lorraine Crapp and Shane Gould.
Kaylee McKeown. Joins David Thiele as only Australians to win individual Olympics gold in backstroke.
Zac Stubblety-Cook. Gold in the 200m breaststroke!
Women’s coxless four (Annabelle McIntyre, Jessica Morrison, Rosemary Popa, Lucy Stephan) and Men’s coxless four (Jack Hargreaves, Alexander Hill
Alexander Purnell, Spencer Turrin). Won gold 20 minutes apart.
British and Irish Lions. Won the first Test against South Africa. They go again later today.
Australia Cricket Team. Heading to Bangladesh. I’m not sure why, or what form of cricket it is. If you do, you need to get out more. But – good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise – the Ashes is only a few months away!
Simone Biles. The superstar American gymnast – said to be the greatest of all time – suddenly withdrew from the Olympic Games citing mental health issues and having the “twisties”.