Saturday, 11 August 2012
Steve Hooker insists his demons didn't haunt him as Australia again leaned to sailors for success at the London Olympics on Friday.
Past pole vault hero Hooker looked like yesterday's man as he failed to clear a height in a nightmare defence of his Olympic crown.
But contrary to his limp performance, Hooker maintained a stiff upper lip.
"I gave it as good a crack as I could ... it just didn't quite happen, but it was close," said Hooker, recently beset by injury and a self-confessed case of the yips.
"The physical side of things, the mental side of things, I have had every issue that you can imagine to overcome."
Sailors based almost 200km from London continued to tow Australia's Olympic campaign along by delivering another gold.
The victory of Malcolm Page and Mathew Belcher in the 470 dinghy class gave Australia a seventh gold medal of the Games - three of them won by sailors.
Australia, also with 14 silver and 10 bronze medals, climbed to ninth on the medal table.
The tally was boosted by BMX rider Sam Willoughby shaking off Olympic jitters to snare silver - the only other medal collected by Australia on Friday.
But the waters of Weymouth remain golden for the Australian sailing crew.
By winning the 470 dinghy class, Page became Australia's most successful Olympic sailor - two career gold medals - in his last Olympic race.
"The Australian sailing team is only just reborn," Page said.
"We're really only just starting to find our way.
"We have got three gold medals ... and it can be even bigger and better for another four years to come, let alone eight years and beyond."
Australia's women's match racing team set sail against Spain in Saturday's final, assured of at least a silver medal.
Back in London, world champion BMXer Willoughby claimed a silver of his own.
The world champion struggled through qualifying on Thursday, admitting Olympic hype frayed his nerves.
On Friday, Willoughby made a personal pledge.
"I tried to have a bit of fun and definitely I rode a lot better," he said.
But BMX compatriot Caroline Buchanan, also a world champion, said her fifth place in the women's final was a "nightmare".
"I have had setbacks in my life before but nothing compares to this," she said.
Defending Olympic diving champion Matthew Mitcham qualified ninth for Saturday's 10m platform final but conceded he performed "scrappily" in the preliminaries.
And taekwondo fighter Carmen Marton came agonisingly close to the podium, losing her bronze medal bout in the women's under 67kg division.
But elsewhere, Australians struggled.
Women's kayaker Alana Nicholls was heartbroken at missing the final of the K1 200 event by just 0.033 seconds.
"Woulda, shoulda, coulda - can't change it," she said.
Rhythmic gymnast Janine Murray missed making the all-round final; Australia's synchronised swim team came last.
Ky Hurst faded in the murky waters of Serpentine Lake and finished 20th in the men's 10km marathon swim.
And Australia's men's water polo team lost to Hungary 10-9, now relegated into a match on Sunday for seventh and eighth place.