Swimming legend Ian Thorpe wants medal targets scrapped.
Swimming legend Ian Thorpe wants medal targets scrapped.

Thorpey just sold Australia’s soul

WELCOME to the 2020 Olympics, where gold medals have been replaced by participation trophies and the dais is reserved not for the fastest and strongest but the most improved.

It's where sport - at least in our country - appears to be heading after the Australian Olympic Committee welcomed swimming legend Ian Thorpe's call for an end to medal targets because it's putting too much pressure on our athletes.

That's right, the elite athletes who train day and night for years to test themselves against the best in the world are being crippled by predictions of how many medals the team they're a part of will bring home.

In what has to be one of the flimsiest theories for why we underperformed in Rio in 2016, Thorpe and the AOC agree medal targets have to go.

"It puts an immense amount of pressure on athletes around something they have no control over," Thorpe says.

Let's forget that any athlete that's been through high performance training is bashed over the head with education about not focusing on things they can't control.

Now all of a sudden a forecast which more or less assesses how our athletes are positioned to perform entering a competition - based on recent results - is causing unendurable stress?

"We actively stepped away from setting targets for the very reasons that Ian has rightly raised in recent days," AOC president John Coates says. "Our focus should be on Australians engaging in sporting activity and seeking to fulfil themselves through sport."

Really? So our taxpayer dollars are being directed to athletes so they can feel fulfilled, not win. If that's the case, feel free to send some dough this way so we can buy a new set of jerseys for our office netball team.

James Magnussen, you’re off the hook. (AAP Image/Darren England)
James Magnussen, you’re off the hook. (AAP Image/Darren England)


You too, Cate Campbell. (AAP Image/Darren England)
You too, Cate Campbell. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Coates completely took the mickey by claiming the three medals we won at the Winter Olympics earlier this year came because of the lack of a pre-Games target.

"With no targets set, the athletes were in the position to express themselves," said Coates in a statement released by the AOC, which failed to make it clear we won exactly the same amount in 2010 and 2014.

Wrong. Matt Graham, Jarryd Hughes and Scotty James won medals because they're awesome at what they do and delivered when it counted. Not because of some new sense of freedom that was released by the AOC.

Have we forgotten that pressure - and an athlete's ability to perform despite it - is what makes sport great?

It's why LeBron James is adding fans by the thousands during the NBA playoffs this season, why we've been able to appreciate the difference between Johnathon Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater and their NSW counterparts for the past decade and why Robert Whittaker and Jeff Horn will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up if they knock out their opponents this weekend.

Dealing with the spotlight is part and parcel of big-time sport and champions embrace it.