• Anna was pretty damn happy with bronze - and so should we, says Anthony Tan. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
We are on track to do as well as we did in London, and as a nation, better than that. Perhaps we should be comparing apples with apples when it comes to our sporting prowess, instead of always demanding higher, faster, better, writes Anthony Tan.
Cycling Central
15 Aug 2016 - 6:32 PM  UPDATED 15 Aug 2016 - 8:07 PM

Nine days into the 16-day meet, Australia sits ninth on the overall medal tally.

Six gold, seven silver and nine bronze for a total of 22 medals, or 59 per cent of the 37 medal haul predicted by chef de mission Kitty Chiller last September, where it was estimated Australia would take home 13 golds, 14 silver and 10 bronze from Rio.

"If we took the conservative approach, the Australians would finish the Rio Olympics with 40 medals: 11 gold, 13 silver and 16 bronze... A five medal improvement on London - and Australia's fifth-best gold medal haul on record."

In cycling, Australia has one silver and a bronze to show for its efforts, both from the velodrome, in the men's team pursuit and women's keirin. (Thanks, Anna.) The road cycling is over; there are two track events remaining for the men and women; and the mountain-bike and BMX are yet to run (they begin Wednesday and Saturday, respectively).

Great Britain, with twice as many gold medals as the Netherlands, the next best nation, is indeed just that - great. Four gold, two silver and one bronze for Team GB's two-wheeled warriors, as compared with two golds, one silver and one bronze for the Dutchies.

Unsurprisingly, GB's track performances prompted unfavourable reader comments on Cyclingnews today, such as this by 'Stuart':

"If it was the Russians or the Chinese being this successful as a whole team across all disciplines, sprint & endurance, every four years people would be completely suspect that they were doping. Sudden improvement from world's to Olympics. Just because it's Britain I don't see why the rest of the world can't have the same level of scepticism."

Which was countered by this from 'MJH1962':

"You are casting aspersions without any foundation whatsoever. The GB track cycling programme is built totally around the Olympic cycle, the Worlds are only seen as part of the preparation for tha Olympics."

As well as this from 'nightfend':

"Australia has had their periods of dominance in track racing as well over the years. It kind of goes in cycles. It is likely GB will not be as dominant in the next."

And this from 'yetanothergreenworld':

"To be fair: GB are punching way above their weight across all Olympic events right now. As I write this, they've won over half as many medals as the US, despite having about 1/5 the population. And compare their current medal haul (37) with those of comparably populated European countries like France (21), Italy (21), and Germany (17). They definitely know how to run a national sports program, with or without drugs."

From the remaining track events, the Aussie men are unlikely to medal in the omnium or keirin. Our best bets are with the women's omnium (Annette Edmondson; the AOC has marked her down as a gold medal prospect) or match sprint. Though to stand a chance, our Anna, the defending sprint champ from London, had to do it the hard way and make it through via the repechages, as her time for the Flying 200 was only good enough for ninth.

Given the calibre of competitors in the men's and women's MTB fields and Australia's performances relative to those athletes, a medal will come only by way of a minor miracle. Our BMXers, however, are world-beaters, in particular Caroline Buchanan, who the Australian Olympic Committee is expecting to deliver silver.

Still, predictions are just that.

The AOC was also hoping for gold from Meares in the keirin (she finished third); gold in the women's team pursuit (5th); a silver from Michael Matthews in the road race, which was a little difficult given he wasn't even selected (I've already had my say on that); silver from Glenn O'Shea in the omnium; bronze from the men's team pursuit (2nd); and bronze from the women's team sprint (4th).

Sunday, at the Games' halfway point, Fox Sports said that Australia has averaged 5.4 gold, 6.4 silver and 7.4 bronze medals in the final eight days of the last five Olympic campaigns. "If we took the conservative approach by rounding that down and adding it to the current haul of six gold, seven silver and nine bronze, the Australians would finish the Rio Olympics with 40 medals: 11 gold, 13 silver and 16 bronze.

"That would be a five medal improvement on London - and Australia's fifth-best gold medal haul on record."

In London, Australia's cyclists brought home one gold, two silver and three bronze. Our nadir was Beijing 2008, with one solitary silver (thanks again, Anna). And Athens 2004 was, of course, our apotheosis, topping the medal tally with six gold, two silver and three bronze.

Across all cycling disciplines, it's highly likely we will do as well as we did in London and as an entire team, better than that.

Perhaps we should stop comparing ourselves to a nation three times our size and with lottery-backed funding, enabling the best resources money can buy and paying their athletes a healthy wage. Yes, continue to pursue excellence, but, provided those athletes are clean, learn to appreciate it better - especially when it comes from a country other than ours.

Australia's cycling performances to date in Rio...
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