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When they win, they’re ours

When it comes to sport, Australians love a win. And what the Olympics have shown is that coming second is not an option, writes Damien Ractliffe.

Whether you set your alarm to watch the Olympics in the wee hours of the morning, or it just happens to be on when you are flicking through the channels, there is one thing we all have in common: if Australians are competing, then we want to win.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the outspoken John Steffensen in the 4 x 400m men’s relay, or Nick D’Arcy swimming in the 200m butterfly, they are still ‘our boys.’

Likewise with Natalie Cook in the Volleyball, or Lucinda and Clayton Fredericks (who you might think?) representing the green-and-gold in the individual equestrian, Australians will still claim them as their heroes.

My 2012 Olympics began Sunday last week. I missed the opening ceremony and the first day’s sport, however it happened to be on TV at a mate’s house; twelve or fourteen boys all crowded into the lounge room on a late Sunday night, a few beer cans and ambient music setting the scene.

Australia’s women were rowing in the Eights heats. One of the boys jumped up in the lounge room and silenced everyone so he could voice his opinion.

`Imagine training for four years and make the best team, then in the middle of the event, you stop rowing and lie down,’ he said, referring to the Sally Robbins incident at Athens.

Cozzie, as he’s known by the boys, fuelled the patriotism in the room as a few of the learned boys discussed the ‘Lay Down Sally’ story.  Everyone else watched on as Australia’s women rowed across the line second in their heat.

Next on the telly was the gymnastics, and out of the progressively vocal crowd came the ‘experts.’

`She didn’t plan that,’ one of the boys joked, as our girl Lauren Mitchell wobbled around on one leg trying to keep her balance on the beam.

We all seem to become ‘experts’ in the gymnastics by the time the Olympics rolls around, not to mention during the diving when we comment on the execution of the dive.

Then on came the swimming, arguably the most popular Olympic sport for Australians.

The room started to fill with more house guests, as the men got ready for their 4 x 100m relay heats. The Aussies jumped well, along with USA and Russia.

Two legs down, two to go, and the air in the lounge room started to fill with excitement.

A few bobbed their heads in to see what all the commotion was about.

`Australia’s competiting,’ one of the boys said, not taking his eyes off the television set.

I glanced around the room to get a sense of how interested everyone was.  All the boys seemed to be fixated on the screen however, and the room got louder, as a few of the boys tried to cheer on Australia’s men.

The `Missile’  James Magnussen got a few cheers as he brought it home for the Aussies, hitting the wall in first place for the heat, and the boys gave an almighty roar.

It reminded me of a few months back when I watched Black Caviar win at Royal Ascot at a pub in North Melbourne.  It was patriotism at its best – Australians representing us on the other side of the world, and succeeding.

The swimming was followed by the basketball, and the boys were just as keen to cheer Patty Mills and his teammates on, but they unfortunately went down to Brazil in their first game.

It is something about Australian people, that no matter what sport, coming second is not an option.

Even last Wednesday night, I was at a pub in Essendon; two or three men, sitting infront of the TV, watching the final of the women’s pairs in the rowing. They were cheering for the two Aussie girls, Kate Hornsey and Sarah Tait, to catch the British pair.

Unfortunately our girls fell short, winning silver behind the Great Britain who claimed their first goal medal for the 2012 Games.

But it hit me.  As fully-grown men were cheering for female rowers, I realised that it didn’t matter the sport. It could have been synchronised swimming or table tennis; but the point was that Australians were competing and representing their country at the highest level.

Yes, the number of us who set our alarms, only to see James Magnussen fall agonisingly short in the men’s 100m freestyle, were bitterly disappointed, what made us so shattered was the fact we wanted him to win so desperately. Forget how he reacted after the relay final, we still wanted him to win. He’s still ‘our boy,’ wearing the green-and-gold.

It’s something that unites us as Australians, and even more so when we compete overseas. These athletes are representing the ‘Land Down Under’ on the biggest sporting stage, no different to the Socceroos at the World Cup or Black Caviar at Royal Ascot.

We all want our athletes to win, no matter what the sport, and when they do, we claim them as ours.

Damien Ractliffe is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and part of upstart‘s editorial team. You can follow him on Twitter: @DamienRactliffe

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