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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Racing to oblivion, a whinge on every foot - Steffensen a gold medallist whinger

Racing to oblivion, a whinge on every foot - Steffensen a gold medallist whinger

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Racing to oblivion, a whinge on every foot

Alan Howe
From:Herald Sun
July 16, 2012

ELITE athletes are, by definition, special. The problem for many of them is that they believe that.

This week, some of Australia's high-profile elite athletes have embarrassed themselves.

They might even have embarrassed the nation but for the fact they aren't as elite as they think and no one beyond our shores cares what they say or do. Nor have they heard of them.

Hissy-fitter John Steffensen reckons he missed out on an Olympics berth because of his colour. In fact, he missed out because he couldn't run quickly enough. He never does.

Oh, he has some Commonwealth Games medals, but among our Commonwealth of Nations are some of the slowest people on the planet.

The Poms can't get a trot up these days, the Canadians have slowed down ever since Ben Johnson stopped taking drugs, and those fleet-footed Fijians are no longer a threat - they've been suspended. The five countries whose people have the shortest lifespans on the planet are Commonwealth countries.

They are also the poorest.

A Commonwealth Games gold medal - the irritable Steffensen has two in his sock drawer - means you beat the best that Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Swaziland and Mozambique have to offer. Well done, John.

By international standards Steffensen is a nobody. His personal best in the 400m wouldn't have seen him get a place in any of the Beijing semi-finals. The winner there was a second faster than Steffensen's PB.

American LaShawn Merrit is also black. He wasn't picked because he's black. He was picked because he could run faster than Steffensen ever will.

If whingeing is ever an Olympic sport, Australia might have a gold medallist in Steffensen.

The whingeing women's final would certainly include Tamsyn Manou, who as Tamsyn Lewis has won three Commonwealth gold medals, all for team relays.

In between revealing shoots for Ralph magazine, the attention-seeking Tamsyn was a regular national 800m champion.

But, despite having two-time Olympic gold medallist and now London Olympics boss Sebastian Coe - Lord Coe to those of us who know him less well than Tamsyn - on her side, she struggled against quality competition.

She also wants to run in London, but her times have been too slow.

In a tweet for twerps so bored they follow Ms Manou on Twitter, she complained that Athletics Australia would rather have no runner in her favoured event than send her.

I had no idea athletics management had such commendable judgment. According to a report in the Herald Sun last week, Manou needed a time inside 1min 59.90 to qualify, but has not run the distance in less than two minutes in four years.

Apparently she is considering a final appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

But rules are rules and Manou knows them better than most.

She should stay at home, put up her feet and watch as this year's Olympic champions run rings around her failing times.

And now there's shooter Russell Mark complaining that he can't stay in the same room at the Olympic village as his wife, Lauryn, a fellow shooter and team member. Instead, he's been told he'll be sharing a room with his stubbly old mate, Michael Diamond.

But there are differences between Mark and the petulant Steffensen and under-performing Manou.

For a start, Mark has an Olympic gold medal and is a 22-carat world champion. He has picked up national titles for 20 years.

He is also a decent fellow and quite a bright boy. He knows the rules on rooming in London. And he also knows the rules of marketing; his attractive wife is on the cover - barely dressed - of lads' magazine Zoo this week, toting a shotgun.

His complaints about not being able to share an Olympic village room with his wife are playful nonsense that have dominated airwaves and guaranteed Zoo's front page space in newspapers across the country.

Mark says "there are tonnes of gay couples on the Olympic team who will be rooming together" - but he can't name one of them.

Russell Mark is unquestionably an elite athlete. But he's an even better salesman.

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