I‘‘I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains..
of droughts and flooding rains..
‘‘a land of snow-capped mountains
of skiers and bobsleigh lanes..
Not many know those additional lines to Dorothea Mackellar’s poem. That’s because there are no additional lines.
Australia is in large part dry desert.
Given our geography, we’ve skied, jumped, skated and bobsleighed above our weight at Winter Olympics, won a couple of gold, won three medals at the Scochi extravaganza.
This gives context to Jana Pittman’s bobsleigh partner Astrid Radjenovic’s lament after they’d finished 14th in the final in Scochi.
Radjenovic said they’d been competing in a $30,000 sled against $100,000 sleds; that she’d received $70,000 in funding over four years; that Britain had 3.4 million pounds on their Games preparation; that the Russians had spent $4 million on equipment alone as part of the $50 billion obscenity.
She’ll receive cold comfort from federal treasurer Joe Hockey, who has said it’s the end of the age of entitlement, and he hasn't even started.
Wait until he gets on to funding for private schools, private health funds, financial planners, the miners, novated car allowances.
No, he won’t be doing that, and he certainly won’t be getting on to institutes of sport.
They started with one lonely Australian institute established in response to the shock of the 1976 Olympics.
That’s the one where Australia won a literal handful of medals.
Salvaging the national reputation fell to 1500m swimmer Stephen Holland, the sunny smiler and world record-holder dubbed Superfish.
It was a burden no-one should have been asked to carry.
Holland beat his best but only won bronze — only.
He had failed a nation — or at least was made to feel so.
His pain should have provided a permanent cure for jingoism.
But no, if gold medals were demanded, then an institute was needed, and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser made the decision.
That did the job and since then the gauge has been set: 20+ gold medals: deadset freaks and legends; 15-20: greatest little sports country in the world; 10-15: a pass; 5-10: a worry; 5 to the unthinkable below: a blow to the national psyche from which we may never recover.
Should the gauge hover half-full, then the Australian Olympic Committee hollers for more cash for gold.
From the muted criticism, it’s what we want.
The national institute has been joined by state institutes, proliferating academies for cricket and marbles and every other sport.
Should Radjenovic want her sport to join the financial gravy bobsleigh, getting into the school system could be the key.
We need to widen the pool of potential medallists.
The Kings School has a snow sports coach for when the pupils go to the Snowy.
It might be a bit late for the likeable Radjenovic, but federal education minister Chris Pyne might step in and fund snow coaches and trips for the likes of Bidwill High School and the Shalvey campus.