Why I feel for Emily Seebohm.

Emily Seebohm after the 100 Backstroke final.

After a dynamite heat and a semi-final which was a touch slower, Emily Seebohm came into the final of the 100 backstroke yesterday morning in the box seat to take gold, but as we know in sport their are no certainties. 

After finishing a “disappointing” second behind Missy Franklin of the United States, Seebohm was unable to contain her emotions when interviewed by Giaan Rooney after the race.

Some have labelled her a “sook” for showing her raw emotions after coming agonisingly close the the holy grail of Swimming.

This is fine if you’re an outsider with no knowledge of what goes on away from the tv cameras, in fact i’d be shocked if the majority of those never involved with the sport didn’t have that same thought.

As a former swimmer myself, I wasn’t surprised at her reaction to the loss, because losing is never fun and the higher you climb in life the further you have to fall.

Seebohm saying she was influenced by her own hype, and that she didn’t give herself enough time to get inside her own head as a result of a social media addiction (who doesn’t have one of those these days), may have had some influence over the race, but she knows, and has acknowledged that this was not the reason she lost.

Fast forward to Seebohm speaking poolside.

She was not only disappointed in herself, but worried that she had let down everyone around her – The Australian team, her parents, her coach, the Australian public, even getting to a point where she questioned if her parents would still love her.

Again, sounds stupid, but that pressure is real.

It’s real because when you swim, you put it there, even though it doesn’t exist to anyone else.

The chain of events with Seebohm triggered something inside my head, from a perspective I had never thought of before.

There was one race in my career where I felt that pressure, and it is a race I’ve written about countless times (I won’t give away too much here as it’s an issue that still burns 8 years later).

It was February 2004 and I had one swim left to qualify for the 50 Breaststroke for Open Nationals.

I’d qualified for three other events, so this wasn’t the be all and end all race, but it was the event that I always thought was going to be the first one I’d qualify for.

The qualifying time for the event was 48.10 , a time that I had only got within a second of so I knew it was going to take something special, and that’s exactly what the build up to the event was, but not for reasons I care to remember.

Earlier that week one of my Grandparents had passed away, so on top of trying to deal with the grieving process, I needed to get my head right for what I had worked so hard to achieve for the last three years.

The race came and went and I  swam 48.11 , sure it was a personal best but .01 of a second is an immeasurable amount of time and the list of things I could have done to get that time down is  fairly long.

After the race (in which I finished third, winning my first ever State Open medal in the process) I felt as if I was functioning outside my own body.

I was numb, I was on the verge of tears and much like Emily Seebohm yesterday, I thought I’d failed a lot of people.

When your parents decide they are going to drive you to the pool before the sun comes up and pick you up after it has gone down so that you can chase your dream, there aren’t many opportunities where you can say “here’s the reward”.

That day was one of them.

Given everything that had happened in the week previous I knew that if things went right that would be a small bit of relief, and when things went horribly wrong by the smallest of margins it made the situation a lot worse.

The strange thing is that it didn’t. Everybody around me knew how tough the week had been and how badly I wanted to succeed.

People were disappointed for me and not disappointed in me and that’s how we should feel for Seebohm.

It makes no difference how she releases what she is feeling, we should support all of our athletes through thick and thin, something that has been lacking at this Olympics.

Whether it’s an Olympic Gold Medal or qualifying in a race you so desperately want, missing out hurts, but it’s made better knowing that those around you will never judge you on that one performance.

 

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Olympics on the cheap.

Are you happy with the coverage of London 2012 ?

For those complaining about not being able to watch more of the Olympics, you should have brought Foxtel. If you want something in life you have to pay for it, regardless of what it is. I’m one of the millions who are sitting through the Coverage of Nine Network, but unlike many I am more than impressed.

The London Olympics are going to be remembered for many things, in particular the use of social media during the Games. A prime example of this is the following which posted was on Nine Network’s Facebook page on Monday night:

Dear Channel 9 any chance you could possibly re think your approach to covering London 2012.

Maybe some volleyball, badminton, table tennis, archery etc in prime times instead of swimming, repeats of swimming, interviews of swimming, analysis of swimming, previews of swimming!

Give the other sports some exposure and recognition for what they have achieved and what they have accomplished!

Kind regards, the rest of Australia!

The  post had more than 75 000 likes by midday the next day, with that number sure to continue to rise as the post gets spread across Facebook.

It raises a few valid points – Nine have run the swimming program like it is a full telecast, Seven did the same thing for the duration of their Olympic coverage. It is the nature of the networks to run the sports which are going to give them the highest ratings as it’s one way they make their money.

What I don’t like is the assumption that because Nine have shown the full Swimming program they aren’t going to show anything else. In the last 60 hours during prime time I have seen – Swimming, Hockey, Diving, Equestrian, Badminton, Canoeing, Water Polo, Rowing, Gymnastics, Cycling and Judo. That’s 11 sports out of the 28 on offer, taking into account that not all of them are on in the first week.

You can look at this figure one of two ways – 11/28 sports is less than a pass mark OR 11/28 sports shows that they are making an effort to cover as much as they can given that they don’t have the same luxuries as Foxtel do.

But I can hear you saying “Nine have a digital channel, why isn’t that being utilised? ” While there has been no explanation from Nine, it must be assumed that they would have to have paid extra for rights to the additional channel. Given this channel isn’t a large chunk of their viewing pie, the money probably wasn’t put on the table for it at any point.

We’ve become spoilt for choice in Australia in the last decade and fans of every sport expect to see what the want when they want, and while this hasn’t been delivered at time during the games on Free To Air, what we have seen is better coverage than what has been offered by many other nations and yes I am referring to the programming gods at NBC in America.

With the choice not to show the Opening Ceremony live coming down to the fact that the audience available to watch it because of work commitments wouldn’t justify it, NBC have continued to treat the American public with contempt.

Coverage tonight will start at 8pm on the West Coast, which is long after events have concluded in London, so not only are they getting condensed coverage, but they are seeing things that they would have already had access to online.

So why would NBC pay so much for the rights to this global sporting feast if they aren’t going to use them ? Because there is a lure to being able to advertise yourself as the “Olympic Network” for the other three years and fifty weeks of the cycle.

I don’t think Nine should be making any commitments to Rio and beyond until their executives are able to sit down and look at what they could have done better at the end of the Games, but I do think there is one key fact that is going to determine what future coverage is like regardless of which network we are glued to.

This is accepting what we have or doing something about it if we have to pay for more coverage.

Australian sports fans have to realise there are going to be fans who aren’t happy with the coverage because their favourite sport isn’t getting more air time,  I’d love to see every game of European Handball throughout the tournament, but sometimes you can’t please everyone.

Who’s to blame for relay pain ?

A distraught James Magnussen ponders what might have been.

The 4 X 100 freestyle relay in the early hours of Monday morning was seen as the best chance for a gold medal from the Australian male swimming team in the early stages of the competition. After qualifying fastest  for the final  there wasn’t much that was going to stand in their way.

 Speaking with Nine Network after the heat swim on Sunday night (Australian time), James Magnussen was happy to state that not only did he have more in the tank, but the team would go faster in the finals session that night.

To the Australian public this reads as “We’ve got this one in the bag guys.”

The 4 X 100 is the one event I want us to win every four years. Since Gary Hall Jr stated the Americans were going to “Smash us like guitars” in Sydney, with Ian Thorpe ensuring that they did anything but, the drive to beat the Americans has never left.

After a disappointing finish leaving Australia in fourth position in the final, it was obvious that the team were distraught, yet the waiting public wanted a scapegoat and got one in the reigning world champion.

It seems that fans have already forgotten that Magnussen was one of four swimmers in the pool for us.

The purpose of having him swim first was so he could have a crack at the 100  freestyle World Record and while he wasn’t even close to reaching the mark, it seems as if this is the only thing that team management did right.

With Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts and Matt Targett rounding out the four, the biggest mistake that the team made was in fact made by the officials with the order of swimmers.

Magnusssen as the faster swimmer should have swum last, and I would have had Sullivan behind him and Roberts leading off.

The adrenaline kick from a relay is different to what is felt in an individual event and if Magnussen swum last he may have been able to put together a better leg in chasing down the American and French outfits.

Even if the four men in Green and Gold could have put together better individual efforts, it is unlikely that they would have beaten either the gold or silver medalists, who to their credit both swam fantastically planned and put together races.

Isn’t that the problem with Australia at the Olympics ? We only ever focus on what we could have done and assume everything else would have fallen into place and until this attitude changes we’re always going to look for someone to blame.

Why not us ?

The steal that started it all :: Dave Roberts in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS

Baseball fans remember the Red Sox winning 4 straight against New York to make the world series, but few remember the 22 wins in 25 games that saw the side finish within three games of their arch-rivals at the end of the 2004 regular season.

the 2012 Red Sox and their 2004 brothers aren’t that far apart, and signs are starting to show that it could be heading for a similar outcome.

After a terrible 4-9 start to the season this year, the Red Sox have scored the most runs in the Major Leagues and before the 20th of July game against the Toronto Blue Jays, they find themselves one game out of the wildcard, the same route they took to the 2004 title.

With a bit of luck the Sox are going to be able to make a run at the playoffs. Ortiz, Ellsbury and Pedroia have all spent time on the Disabled List, while the likes of Beckett and Matsuzaka have one or two poor innings that cost their team a game, often in tight scenarios.

While the 2004 outfit were not as overrun with injuries, the signs for the current crop have come through the unexpected performances, namely Will Middlebrooks, Cody Ross and Kelly Shoppach who have  all had better than expected seasons, with Ross having hit three home runs in the last two days.

Then of course their is the trade of a much loved player, a trade which many fans think has crippled the chances of the outfit rather than increasing them, as was the case with Nomar Garciaparra being traded to the Cubs on deadline day in 04.

Who came across in that trade ?

The Sox picked up several valuable pieces, including someone by the name of Dave Roberts, who, if memory serves me well stole second and started the greatest comeback in the history of sports in Game Four of the ALCS.

Then we have Carl Crawford, somewhat of an X Factor in his tenure with Boston. While he was often feared while with the Rays, he has struggled to return to those glory days, although he has been decimated by injury. Yet again the signs are there with Crawford stealing three bases in his return to the lineup during the 10-1 win over the White Sox.

The walk off blast from Cody Ross on Thursday night has something special about it, much like Ortiz walking off with the series in the 2004 ALDS against the Angels and Manny blasting one into the coke bottle at the same point three years later.

There is a hunch in pockets of Red Sox Nation that says “Maybe this year won’t be so bad after all.”

Welcome home Youk.

The last two remaining members of the 2004 Red Sox – Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz.

When Kevin Youkilis hit a three run homer at Fenway yesterday, I felt as if I had entered the twilight zone. The cheer of YOOOOUUUUUK echoing as he rounded the bases added some comfort to the fact that he had just hit what would turn out to be the game winning bomb for the Chicago White Sox.

After being traded on June 24, Red Sox fans were left wondering where did it all go wrong ?

Youkilis was the second last member of the 2004 Red Sox drought breaking outfit, every indication suggesting he would finish his career in Beantown.

I don’t think it is fair that we look to place blame on either Youk or Bobby V for what happened, and while I wasn’t impressed with the decision to trade away the heart and soul of the last decade, I know deep down it was our only option.

With Will Middlebrooks progressing at a much quicker rate than expected and Gonzo having settled at first after his move from the Padres at the beginning of last season, there was just nowhere left for Youkilis as  the Sox looked to the future.

With the issues of the pitching staff being well documented over the last few months, especially in the spectacular collapse of September 2011 (7-20 to miss the playoffs on the last day in case you had forgotten), the trade presented itself as a chance to pull together the defence in what had been a shaky season to date.

Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge were the two pieces of the puzzle received in exchange for one of the most successful third baseman of the last decade, yet I believe that the action should not have stopped there.

With Daisuke Matsuzaka struggling and Daniel Bard having been sent back to AAA, these would make two great bullpen acquisitions (with Bard having been bumped up from the bullpen into a “permanent” starting role before opening day).

The pitching woes are another story for another day, so getting back to the matter at hand, there is no reason for Sox fans not to want every success for Youk with the White Sox and possibly beyond.

All too often Boston fans are described as rude and abrupt, but the reception that has been given over the last few nights in Boston shows that providing you leave us on good terms (Youk style, not what Johnny Damon decided to do), then you are going to be welcomed back with open arms, especially when you were part of a group that made history.

Sure Kevin cost us a game that may ultimately cost us a playoff spot, but that doesn’t really matter to me, simply because he’s one of the greatest people in baseball.

Sharing isn’t caring

Rinks such as this would be a dream come true for the AIHL.

The Australian Ice Hockey League have come a long way in such a short time and all involved need to be congratulated for the countless hours of unpaid and often  unrewarded work they are putting into the league.

As I entered the Melbourne Icehouse on Sunday afternoon before the clash between the Sydney Bears and Melbourne Mustangs I was struck by a sight that while not confronting,  was eye opening to say the least.

Less than an hour before the puck was due to drop in an AIHL game and the same rink was being used by a “learn to skate” class.

I understand that given the current state of the game in this country multiple use rinks are standard practice, but there is something about it that doesn’t sit well with me.

It isn’t the fact the ice was being used, it was how it was being used.

I love the idea of a club fixture acting as a curtain raiser to the big game, it gives me a chance to examine the sport at a slower pace and get in the right frame of mind for my call, but kids who can’t skate falling over ?

I could watch a video of myself trying to skate if I really wanted to see that.

One thing the league are going to need to consider when the time comes is having stadiums that are owned and operated by the clubs, so they are able to do what they please with them.

When this happens curtain raisers every week become a real option and as a result we are likely to see hockey pack in even more bang for their buck.

Formula for success.

BMO Field – The home of Toronto FC

Despite being played in concurrent seasons, the A-League and Major League Soccer share many similarities, and as a result have many things that they can learn from each other.

With the MLS being having been established in 1993 and commencing in 1996, it’s to be expected they are further developed than the A-League, a competition that has only been run since August of 2005.

Since formation the MLS has gone from ten to nineteen teams, while the A-League have expanded from eight to ten.

Neither league has done this without their problems, with the leagues having lost two and three teams respectively.

This is where the way to success through expansion becomes cloudy, something that A-League new boys the Western Sydney Wanders should in particular take note of.

The A-League chose on one hand to expand rapidly, with both the North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United being offered licenses in the 2009-10 season and leaving competition three years later.

Research has shown that North Queensland has one of the highest rates in Australia for junior participants in football, while the Gold Coast were backed by billionaire businessman Clive Palmer, giving both sides more than enough ammunition to succeed.

With a record crowd of 8,897 being drawn for their first ever league game against Sydney FC, the Fury were destined to fail as attendances were never going to supplement costs.

The Gold Coast, while having more on-field success than the Fury were not without their own problems, with fans and officials outraged when Clive Palmer stated he would cap crowds at five thousand partway through the 2010-11 season.

The move led to an exodus of fans, with their lowest attendance coming against the Fury in December 2010, when they drew just 1,714 in a disappointing 1-0 loss.

When you compare these crowd numbers to expansion teams in the MLS who have joined in the period since the A-League began, the numbers don’t flatter the Australian competition.

The eight MLS expansion franchises since 2006 drew average crowds of 22,933 in their first season, an average that only the Melbourne Victory have been able to better three times in their history.

It’s easy to sit back and say the A-League shouldn’t have gone to Townsville or the Gold Coast, and despite my involvement with the North Queensland Fury in their first season, I  agree. If the people of Townsville had shown their support for the team, it would have been a solution to a few of the problems, even though it may not have been enough to save the club.

So where have MLS gone right in their expansion?

One thing I admire MLS for is their research before launching a new team, with most franchises placed where football has a history, in essence breaking down the process of working their way into a new market, something that many teams across many codes will tell you is a tough task.

Let’s use Toronto FC as the example.

Toronto has long been the home of international football in Canada, with the Rogers Centre playing host to numerous international games and friendlies with AS Roma and Celtic drawing over 50 000 fans in 2004.

With such a rich history, the move to establish TFC in 2007 was one that made perfect sense. Playing out of BMO field with a capacity of 21,859 the Reds have not had the most on field success, but have found themselves making a profit every season and winning the Amway Canadian Championship on four occasions.

The Reds also have a knack for big name signings, with current captain Torsten Frings having represented Germany 79 times.

With the exception of Robbie Fowler, Dwight Yorke and Romário, there have been few names to draw fans through the gates.

With less than three months till their inaugural season the Western Sydney Wanderers need to lure a big name. Fabio Grosso has been linked to the league in the last month, with the 2006 World Cup winner stating he wants to finish his career here, not for the money but for the experience.

Regardless of if Grosso is the ideal big naming signing, it must be acknowledged he would have the ability to pull patrons through the door wherever he played and could create a domino effect for other big names.

Despite being a well recognised sport in Australia, football still seems to be lingering in the second tier when it comes to public opinion, something that is going to need to change if the A-League is to survive long-term.

Perhaps the ideal situation is for Ben Buckley to call his MLS counterpart Don Garber so the two leagues can work together, including a pre/post season tournament between the two leagues, which would not only enable officials to swap ideas, but also to compare the standards of the leagues.