Steve Larkin / AAP News
The boss of Australia’s Commonwealth Games team says it’s futile to issue a late rallying cry.
“The athletes, they’re motivated enough,” Australia’s chef de mission Petria Thomas told AAP.
“They don’t need me to stand there and tell them what to think or what to do.”
But Thomas implores Australia’s athletes in Birmingham to do two things at the 20th edition of the Commonwealth’s sporting showcase.
Firstly, have fun.
“We really just try and reinforce that sport is supposed to be fun so you should be enjoying what you’re doing,” she said.
“In environments like this it’s all about soaking it up … the competition is the fun part, this is why you train.
“So that’s a really key message: get out and enjoy the competition because that is why you do all the hard work.”
And secondly, fight.
“We have made no secret of the fact that we would love to stay on top of the medal tally,” Thomas said.
“But we know when you travel to an away Games on English home soil that it’s certainly not going to be easy to maintain that position.
“Every single athlete knows that they have to get in and fight for the result.
“And Australians in the past have certainly proven that we do that.”
Thomas baulks at setting an aspirational medal target for her 430-strong team – the largest Australian team to contest a Commonwealth Games outside their home shores.
“Regardless of any medal tally, all we can ever ask from them is that they try their best and represent us with pride,” she said.
“The Commonwealth Games have a special place in people’s hearts, certainly the sports-loving people of Australia.
“And our athletes love competing at a Commonwealth Games.
“It’s fantastic that the Games, after a very challenging two or three years for the world, can go ahead.”
Thomas said Australia’s athletes – from the youngest, 14-year-old diver Charli Petrov, to the oldest, 63-year-old lawn bowler Cheryl Lindfield – are “champing at the bit” to compete.
Australians will contest all 21 sports on the program in Birmingham with the over-arching goal of retaining the nation’s status as the Commonwealth’s sporting superpower.
Australia has topped the medal tally at 11 Games, England seven, Canada one.
And since 1994, Australia has only been eclipsed on the tally once – – by the Poms at the last Games on British soil, Glasgow 2014.
Thomas warned that host nation England would be primed to repeat that feat – but adoring home crowds could be a proverbial double-edged sword.
“It’s really hard to quantify but there certainly is an effect from being at a home Games, just the support you have from the crowd and the atmosphere and excitement,” she said.
“But competing in front of a home crowd, particularly if you’re a medal favourite, there are expectations and they can be challenging to deal with at times … it definitely can create extra pressure.”