This month in Australian Olympic History: August
August is a busy month in Olympic history with 15 summer Games conducting competition days during this peak month.
Games to be held wholly in August were: Antwerp 1920, Berlin 1936, and three of the last four in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016.
Antwerp 1920 was held less than two years after World War I. The Games had been originally awarded to Antwerp in 1914, but Belgium was devastated by the war and there was doubt they could host the Games.
Post WWI Lyon and Amsterdam were interested in hosting, but in April 1919, Antwerp were reconfirmed as the hosts.
In April 1920 the Australian Olympic Council was formed and it would be the first Australia-only Olympic team.
Australia sent a 13-member team, competing in athletics, cycling, diving, swimming and tennis and won silver and bronze in the pool and a silver in athletics.
Future great Australian sports administrators Wilfrid Kent Hughes (athletics) and Frank Beaurepaire (swimming) competed, while Lily Beaurepaire represented in diving and swimming.
In 1936, Berlin finally had an opportunity to host a Games, after the 1916 Games were cancelled due to World War I.
The German hosts spared no expense and used the Games as a propaganda tool to demonstrate the beauty and efficiency of the Third Reich. A number of countries, including America, came close to boycotting the Games.
Australia competed in athletics, boxing, cycling, diving, rowing, swimming and wrestling.
Triple jumper Jack Metcalfe won Australia’s sole medal, a bronze. Wrestler Dick Garrard made his Olympic debut in Berlin, but would have to wait 12 years to make his second Olympic appearance in 1948 due to World War II cancelling the next two Games.
Athens in 2004, was a very successful Games for Australia, enjoying the enduring benefits of hosting the previous Games, they won a record 17 gold medals.
In cycling they won a staggering 11 medals and six in diving.
Rower James Tomkins won his fourth consecutive Olympic medal, swimmer Ian Thorpe brought his Olympic career tally to nine and swimming teammate Petria Thomas brought her career total to eight.
Future greats of Australian sport making their debuts included tennis player Samantha Stosur, cyclist Anna Meares, shooter Daniel Repacholi and Socceroo Tim Cahill.
Australia won an impressive tally of 46 medals in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics.
The Chinese hosted a magnificent Games, with two spectacular venues the National Stadium, called the Bird’s Nest and the aquatics main venue called the Water Cube.
Tanya Harding, Melanie Roche and Natalie Ward won their fourth consecutive medal as members of the Australian softball team and the Hockeyroos won their fifth consecutive Olympic medal.
In the pool, Steph Rice won three gold and Grant Hackett closed his seven medal-winning career with two more in Beijing. Future stars who made their debut included basketballer Patty Mills, diver Melissa Wu, Kookaburra Eddie Ockenden, rower Kim Crow and swimmer Cate Campbell.
The Rio 2016 Olympics would be the first occasion South America would host the Games. Australia sent 422 athletes and it was the first Games where selected women outnumbered men in the Australian team.
The Australian women won the inaugural Rugby Sevens tournament defeating their Kiwi neighbours.
Track cyclist Anna Meares closed her four-Games career with her sixth Olympic medal after she carried the opening ceremony Flag.
Chloe Esposito became the third member of her family to wear the green and gold, winning Australia’s first medal in Modern Pentathlon – gold.
Catherine Skinner won the women’s Trap event, Australia’s seventh medal in Trap or Double Trap at the Olympics, continuing Australia’s outstanding tradition in this discipline.
Mary Hanna’s selection at her fifth Games in Equestrian, at the age of 61, made her the oldest ever Australian Olympian to compete at a Games. Also competing at her fifth Games was table tennis player Jian-Fang Lay.
AOC Commends Gymnastics Australia on Independent Safety and Welfare Review
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) fully supports steps announced today by Gymnastics Australia (GA) to promote athlete safety and welfare in the sport.
The announcement that the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is to undertake an independent review of the sport’s culture and practices is a positive and constructive approach, according to AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll.
“Gymnastics Australia (GA) has been proactive in its desire to promote a safe and enjoyable environment for athletes. Committing to an independent review of policies, practices and governance structures sends a strong signal to the gymnastics community and indeed the broader sporting community of their commitment.
“The AOC also commends other measures implemented by GA, most recently the establishment of the Gymnastics Support Line in association with AIS, which provides a confidential and independent opportunity for anyone in the gymnastics community to report any experiences of abuse,” Mr Carroll said.
The Olympic movement is committed to promoting safe sport and the protection of athletes from all forms of harassment and abuse. This commitment is captured in the Olympic Charter.
Aussie Olympians come together for virtual quiz
On the eve of what would have been the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony, Olympians and Tokyo 2020 hopefuls came together to take part in a virtual Olympic-themed quiz night.
Organised by three-time Olympian Cate Campbell (Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016) and hosted by Channel 7 presenter and Sydney 2000 sprinter Matt Shirvington, dozens of athletes joined the call for a night of Olympic-inspired fun.
Double gold medallist, Campbell, pulled Olympians together, keeping the Olympic Spirit alive following a time of much uncertainty for athletes.
“It was lovely to be able to recognise the date of what would have been the Opening Ceremony.” Cate said.
“We had retired athletes, current athletes and future Olympians. There was some competitive chat thrown around, and everyone seemed to have a great time. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect the future of Olympic sport, with the past - and it was a moment for everyone to reflect on the importance of the Olympic movement.
“And it helped keep the Olympic Spirit alive - less than a year to go!“
Fifteen Olympic Sports were represented across many generations, including Tokyo 1964 Olympian Don Martin (Hockey) taking part alongside three generations of his family.
But following a late burst, it was David Culbert (Long Jump, Soul 1988, Barcelona 1992) who took the quiz night honours after hitting the front with one question remaining, and pipping Linden Hall (Athletics - 1500m, Rio 2016) at the post.
Culbert was full of admiration for the way athletes have dealt with the postponed Olympic Games.
“Congratulations and thanks to Cate and Mitch Larkin and the swim team for the idea, and for opening up the quiz to the broader Olympians.
“It was a great night and no surprise that field and track finished 1/2. Everyone should keep an eye on Linden, she is a star on and off the track.
“The attitude of our current trapping of athletes is incredible. They have accepted the circumstances and are staying positive. Three cheers to them all.”
Unfazed and undaunted, Hoberg ready to take on the world
Shooter Alex Hoberg is a young man reaching for the stars. At 18 years of age, he has already achieved much, and is in a hurry to accomplish more – both on and off the range.
The rifle athlete from Adelaide already has one Commonwealth Games and a Youth Olympic Games in his resume and in 12 months’ time he will be on the line competing against the world’s best 10m Air Rifle athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Despite being a teenage Games rookie in the daunting Games pressure-cooker competition atmosphere, Hoberg holds no fear, nor does he have modest expectations.
“I want to win – that’s the goal,” he said forthrightly.“I'm not going to set my expectations any lower than that.
"I don’t think there is any point going to the Games thinking my goal is not to win. If you are not going there to win, you shouldn’t be there.”
Hoberg’s entry to rifle shooting came via an unusual entry point.
When aged 12, he attended the paintball birthday party of a fellow Year 5 friend and was hooked, but his dad, Raleigh, initially steered him towards field and target archery and purchased him a compound bow.
Soon after, Hoberg attended a shooting range and was hooked, and in 2017 he was selected in the Australian team for the Junior World Championships in Suhl, Germany.
“I remember the flight over. I wanted to stay up for the whole flight. Everyone was saying you’re crazy. I was so excited,” he recalled.
Hoberg was later selected for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where he reached the 10m Air Rifle final.
He enjoyed a blazing start to the final and was leading after the 10, 12 and 14 shot stages in a closely contested 24-shot final.
At the 20-shot first elimination stage, Hoberg was just 0.2 points in third place behind the leader Abdullah Hel Baki from Bangladesh, and then lost a shoot-off with Ravi Kumar from India. The event was ultimately won by his Australian team-mate, Dane Sampson.
Hoberg freely admits he was in tears for days afterwards knowing he was fractionally close to a medal, possibly gold, at the Games.
He says an innocent single shout from the packed crowd broke his concentration.
“I heard someone in the crowd screaming out my name and then I was put off, I wasn’t focusing any more. It was ‘oh my God, I am winning’. It was a mental turn-off that killed me,” he said.
Being a 16-year-old in an adult Games Village was also socially challenging. Because of his age, Hoberg faced restrictions and was limited to where he could go while with the Australian Commonwealth Games team.
But when he attended the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires later in the year, his team-mates and opponents were all under 18 years of age. Many of his Australian team-mates remain firm friends two years later.
At the YOG, Hoberg was leading at the half-way mark in the 10m Air Rifle final before he slipped away and finished fifth.
“I realised I was in first place and I went ‘don’t let what happened at the Commonwealth Games happen here’. As soon as I thought that, it was game over,” he admitted.
After capturing the 2019 Oceania 10m Air Rifle title, Hoberg arrived at this year’s Olympic nomination trials full of confidence.
“I knew I was shooting the scores. I knew my training was at its peak leading up to it. Going into both 3P and Air Rifle I knew I had what it took. It was a matter of am I going to do it on the day, and for the most part I did,” he said.
In the opening nomination trial, Hoberg peeled off a personal best qualification score of 629.2, a score which would have earned a place in the 2016 Rio Olympic final but finished third in the final behind Sampson and fellow South Australian, Jack Rossiter.
He also topped qualification in the third nomination event but succumbed to Sampson in the final with a wayward last shot before redeeming himself when beating Sampson in the fourth and final nomination trial.
With the Tokyo Olympic Games postponed by 12 months, Hoberg is maintaining a very busy schedule.
Apart from rifle practice, Hoberg is completing his school studies and working part-time at his dad’s business, 4WD Systems.
He hopes to study medicine from next year and will shortly undertake the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) – a two hour long, computer-based test which measures a range of aptitudes and skills considered to be important as a medical student and doctor.
Even though the Tokyo Games will be his first Olympics, Hoberg has already contested his first “dummy” Olympics.
“At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, I shot a practice final with myself, the same day they shot their Air Rifle. I remember in my practice final I shot a higher score than they shot at the Olympics for the gold medal,” he said.
With a personal best score of 629.2 locked away, Hoberg is looking to perform consistently well leading into the Tokyo Games. “In training I don’t want to be shooting below that at all,” he said.
He also believes with 12 months additional training and experience he will be a better shooter.
“With the same amount of commitment, motivation and training, there is no reason why I can’t perform even better in 2021 in Tokyo than I could have in 2020,” he said.
With the assistance of the South Australian Sports Institute (SASI) , Hoberg is using the services of Athens-based Greek sports psychologist, Nektarios Stavrou, to advance the mental aspects of shooting, particularly when he is leading a final.
“It’s more nervous when you are winning the final. When you are in first place, you are better off thinking you are already in first place, let’s see how far I can get. Instead of using it as fear, using it as a confidence booster,” he said.
Hoberg, like many world class athletes, doesn’t lack confidence but it is a matter of properly harnessing his full arsenal of talents to produce the best results on the day.
And who is to say that that day won’t be in Tokyo next year?