WHEN you measure athletes’ performances down to one-hundredth of a second it is clear that very little often separates a gold-medal performance from a silver or a bronze result.
In the highly competitive world of the Olympic Games is it sensible then to judge a team’s success or failure on a fingernail hitting the end of the pool?
And should a nation’s success be judged similarly, because that is what Australia is in danger of doing in the wake of a worse-than-expected result in London.
Never mind the fact that Australia picked up 16 silver medals and 12 bronze along with a very respectable seven gold.
Yes, we won fewer medals in the pool than had been expected, but the same could be said by the Europeans who were beaten by Australians in the men’s K4 kayaking and three classes of sailing - they are both enormously popular sports in northern Europe.
It is also worth considering the breadth of sports in which Australia competed, and competed very successfully.
We didn’t win all our medals in just a couple of sports such as boxing or weightlifting, we were very competitive across a great many.
Part of the trouble is that our expectations were high. There was talk of a top-five finish on the medal table although sporting heavyweights like John Coates, the president of the Australian Olympic Committee, were cautious about reaching this target before the Games started.
Perhaps he understood what the sports-mad public is now learning - that other countries have been laying the foundations of sporting success for years.
They have been spending more money on hiring the best coaches, many from Australia, and supporting their Olympic athletes to a level which allows them to focus almost exclusively on their sport.
Money alone won’t send us rocketing up the medal table in Rio but there are other measures of Olympic success, just ask any of the athletes who competed there.