Attention turns to Beijing

By MITCHELL DALE

AUSTRALIAN Olympic Committee president John Coates was so happy with the Aussies' Athens medal haul he was doing backflips that rivalled our rhythmic gymnastics team.

But he hasn't got too carried away by our success.

Given Australia's unprecedented gold strike in Greece, it would have been easy for Coates to shoot off at the mouth louder than an American sprint star.

But instead he remained realistic, saying the top four finish in Athens was about the best Australia could hope for in the near future.

"To finish any higher than fourth, we need to be more competitive in the multi-medal sports," Coates said on Wednesday during the Wallabies golf day at Bonville.

"A prime example is Japan, who finished fifth.

"They won eight medals in judo, three in wrestling and did well in swimming.

"Outside of swimming, the only multi-medal sports we did well in was cycling, diving and rowing and we did alright in shooting.

"It will be a long time before we are competitive in some of those other multi-medal sports."

Australia's record-breaking 17 gold medals and 49 overall, second to Sydney, was a welcome surprise for Coates and his committee.

"We targetted the top five, so they exceeded our expectations," he said.

"Last year our athletes won about the same number of medals at the World Championships, but we only expected somewhere in the mid 40s (in Athens).

"History has not been kind to the host nation from the previous games, so this was a very significant achievement.

"To come fourth behind the USA, China and Russia and ahead of Germany and Japan was an outstanding result."

But the celebrations didn't last long for Coates and the committee, with planning already underway for 2008.

"We have already set ourselves for Beijing and our target is again the top five," he said.

"Overall, we would like to medal in more sports than the 15 in Athens.

"China has already shown it will be a mighty force at home, as will Japan and South Korea, while USA and Russia will obviously be strong too.

"But if we are smart, we should have an advantage over Western Europe because we are in the same time zone (as China), meaning we can leave a bit later and it won't take as long to acclimatise."



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