It seems that many, impressed by the Olympic Games taking place in Tokyo, first noticed a country that took first places in the ranking with medals. We are talking about Australia, which, despite its vast territory, has a population of about 25 million, which is less than half the population of Italy. If it comes as a surprise for some, then for fans of the Olympic Games, Australia will certainly not be something new, on the contrary, it is an example of a country that over time has managed to bring different sports and not only to high levels. In aquatic disciplines, they are clearly accustomed to people who already live on the coast.
Australia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Australia is currently fifth in the medal table with 36 medals, 15 gold, 4 silver and 17 bronze, behind very favorite China, the United States, Japan and Great Britain. The Australian driver on Japanese soil is undoubtedly Emma McCune, the 27-year-old swimmer currently the most medal winner in Tokyo 2020, having won seven gold and a bronze.
The gold medal came in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle. Same medal color also 4x100m and 4x100m mixed style. Finally, bronze in the 100m butterfly in the 4x200m style and in the 4x100m mixed race. But swimming isn’t the only area in which the Australians have excelled: other medals have come in rowing, surfing, horseback riding and cycling. Swag will surely enrich itself in the coming days.
Australia’s history at the Olympics
During most of the 20th century, Australia did not shine much at the Olympic Games, with the exception of the 1956 edition in Melbourne, where Australian athletes won 35 medals. From then on, slow climbs began that bore the first fruits in Barcelona 1992 (27 medals) and Atlanta 1996 (41 medals) until the final explosion occurred in the new millennium.
In fact, in the 2000 Sydney edition, Australia reached its record of medals, 58, of which 16 were gold, 25 silver and 17 bronze. The result was also achieved thanks to Ian Thorpe, the real “shark” of the Olympic swimming pool, able to dominate several categories in swimming with his companions. Other medals that came that year were from off-water sports, such as gold in taekwondo, beach volleyball, archery, horse riding, athletics and gymnastics.
The 2000 exploit was repeated four years later in Athens, when the medals were 49. Thorpe and the swimmers brought in the most gold, but they also came in cycling with Ryan Bailey and thanks to the field hockey team. The surprise medals came in softball, baseball, and tennis. In Beijing 2008, despite Thorpe’s absence, medals continued to swim with superstar Stephanie Rice: in that edition there were 46 Australian medals, a number that saw a slight decline in subsequent editions.
In London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016, Australia managed to win 35 and 29 medals respectively, numbers that fall short of what they were in the early 2000s, but have already surpassed in the Japanese Olympics that are still underway. The example of a continental nation that over time has managed to become a ‘power’ in the aquatic disciplines, but at the same time manages, albeit with its own limits, to find space even in sports far removed from Australian culture and history.
(Emma McKeown with the medals she won at Tokyo 2020 – Photo by Sky)
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