Is gold for D’Arcy worth more than its weight?

30 July 2012

Written by: Erdem Koc

The Australian team’s build-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games has been filled with more than one controversy, but for many the one that heads that list of controversial decisions is the inclusion of the swimmer Nick D’Arcy.

D’Arcy will represent Australia in the men’s 200 metres butterfly final in the early hours of Wednesday morning.  But the road to the starting blocks has been marred with murky waters and D’Arcy will be hoping that a medal can help the past four years disappear.

After being banned from the swimming team and the 2008 Beijing Olympics due to an assault on former teammate Simon Cowerly, D’Arcy will be hoping that he can remove the stigma attached to his name and justify his 2012 selection with an Olympic Medal.

After being subject to a six-figure sum for the assault and compensation to Cowerly, D’Arcy filed for bankruptcy so he would not be made to pay, putting his selection for the Olympic team at risk and making no friends in the process with many seeing his act as shameful.

His selection by Swimming Australia brought with it a deep pool of questions, mainly relating to whether or not he should be allowed to compete for the team due to his questionable behaviour.

Nevertheless, he was selected.  But he did himself no favours when he posted a photo with fellow Australian swimmer Kenrick Monk via social media earlier this year posing with guns in a store in the US.

While the picture was ultimately innocuous fun and – not to mention – within the law, D’Arcy did not win over any supporters in the bid to justifying the decision to have him placed on the team.

D’Arcy will no doubt be feeling the pressure to perform for Australia as he enters the Aquatics Centre in London to what he hopes is support from the Australian contingent of the crowd.

Coming into the Olympics, D’Arcy holds the third fastest time set this year with a 1:54.71 sitting behind World Record holder Michael Phelps of the US (1:53.65) and Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda (1.54.01).

However, D’Arcy will be hoping to recreate his 2011 victory over Phelps in the same event at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix, beating Phelps by one hundredth of a second.

The troubled Australian swimmer will also take confidence in Phelps’ less-than-impressive fourth place finish in the 400 metres individual medley on Sunday night.

His recorded times and past performances would suggest he is within medal contention, which from the Australian Olympic Committee’s and Swimming Australia’s perspective justifies his selection and warrants him being apart of the Olympic team.

But from the view of the Australian public, D’Arcy doesn’t share Kieran Perkins’ ‘good bloke’ persona or the perfect smile associated with Leisel Jones.

For many, his personality simply does not make the cut.

It is uncertain whether or not D’Arcy winning a medal at the Olympic games will change that view and win over the hearts of Australians or even if gold would justify his spot representing our country.

Surely he would be supported by the public if he were to take his place on the podium on the world stage?

Or is this case the rarest of them all, where Australians will be hoping for failure?

The sourness surrounding D’Arcy may be too bitter to swallow for many of his fellow countrymen but for some it may pass if he wins gold.

If it is not the case and it is a forced, rather than genuine, applause that welcomes D’Arcy in to the arena, surely a medal in his eyes will relieve any doubts, if any, that he deserves his chance to shine for his country.

Josh Jeans is a final-year Bachelor of Media Studies student at La Trobe University and is upstart’s current sports editor.  You can follow him on Twitter: @jeansjoshua