Where to now for Australian track cycling after Olympic flop? | Kieran Pender

A post-mortem is under way into how one of the best-funded disciplines returned just one bronze medal at the Tokyo Games

It is easy to find excuses. The pandemic had disrupted preparations. Riders had retired, another pulled out for personal reasons. At a consequential moment, equipment failed. But the thing about track cycling – particularly disciplines like the team pursuit, which is measured against the clock – is that there is no place to hide.

The Australian track cycling team went to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in late July with high hopes. They came home deeply disappointed. Their total haul – one bronze medal, and a fortunate one at that, given they only made the men’s team pursuit medal race after Great Britain were relegated – is Australia’s worst Olympic track cycling performance since the 1980 Games.

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‘People shunned me like hot lava’: the runner who raised his fist and risked his life

At the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith, winner of the men’s 200 metres, stood on the podium and lifted his hand to protest racism. That moment would end his running career – and shake the world

Tommie Smith still gets chills when he hears the opening bars of The Star Spangled Banner. It takes him right back to that night in October 1968 when he stood on the Olympic podium in Mexico City, wearing his gold medal, and made the raised-fist salute that has defined his life. “It’s kind of a push, when I hear ‘dum, da-dum’,” he says, singing the opening notes of the United States national anthem. “Because that’s the first three notes I heard in Mexico, then my head went down, and I saw no more of it until the last note.”

While the anthem played, all that was going through Smith’s head, he says, was “prayer and pain”. Pain because he had picked up a thigh injury that day on the way to winning the 200m final (he still set a world record). And prayer because Smith was not just putting his career on the line – he was risking his life. There was a real possibility that somebody in the stadium might try to shoot him or his team-mate John Carlos, who was making the salute beside him after winning bronze. In the months leading up to the Olympics, he had been receiving death threats. Two weeks before, Mexican police had fired into a crowd of student protesters, killing as many as 300 people. Martin Luther King had been assassinated just six months earlier. So Smith fully expected that the last thing he would hear, halfway through The Star Spangled Banner, would be a gunshot. “So when I hear that ‘dum, da-dum’, I get chills,” he says. “I got chills then when I sang it,” he laughs, holding out his arms to show the hairs standing on end.

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Michael Johnson: ‘You’re going to see athletes protesting the centres of power’

The former Olympic sprint champion and broadcaster is launching Defiance, a documentary-style podcast series that focuses on athletes who have made a stand against social injustice

Michael Johnson had not yet been alive for a year when Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood atop the 1968 Olympic podium in Mexico City with their gloved fists in the air in salute of Black Power, a defining moment of activism in sport and one they proceeded with despite knowing it would cost them so much. As he grew up and began an athletics career that would yield four Olympic gold medals, Johnson initially only had a “vague” familiarity with his Games forefathers.

That changed in his late teens as he began to study all of the great sprinters before him, searching for nuggets of insight he could learn to further himself. His eyes naturally fell on Smith, one of the few sprinters who was special in both 200m and 400m. Studying Smith’s stride pattern naturally led him on to the 1968 Olympics, and what he learned about Smith and Carlos left him “in awe” of the decisions they made a year after he was born.

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Government warned not to waste legacy of Birmingham Commonwealth Games

  • Tanni Grey-Thompson says London 2012 offered ‘false hope’
  • British sporting success has not inspired public to get active

Success in elite sport has not inspired ordinary Britons to become more active, the government will be told on Wednesday, and it must seize the moment to ensure that the participation legacy of the 2022 Commonwealth Games is not squandered as it was after London 2012.

In a notable intervention Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s greatest Paralympians, will say “false hope” was created by promises that major sporting events, such as the London Olympics, would transform the nation’s fitness.

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Doubts on legacy and cost concerns hang over Tokyo Olympic Games | Justin McCurry

The full financial impact is yet to be determined but there is loose consensus in Japan over the ‘coercive’ approach of IOC

The public square outside Shimbashi station, the scene of anti-Olympic protests this summer, has resumed its usual role as an after-work rendezvous. Newspapers that juxtaposed athletic feats with a rising coronavirus caseload now wonder how Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, will fare when voters go to the polls at the end of this month.

The recent lifting of Covid-19 emergency measures has added to the feeling that “normality” is being restored in Tokyo after months of Olympic controversy and virus-induced anxiety. Residents who were banned from attending all but a few events might be tempted to ask if the Games of the XXXII Olympiad were, in fact, a recurring theme in a long, feverish dream.

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