Australia backs away from top-five medals goal at Rio

Mon Apr 27, 2015 10:02pm EDT
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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian sport has moved to dampen expectations of a big medal haul at the Rio Olympics by admitting that the goal to finish in the top-five on the table was more "aspirational" than likely.

Australia slumped to 10th in the medal standings at the 2012 London Games, the country's worst Olympic haul in 20 years, sparking criticism back home of under-performing athletes and wasted taxpayer money.

In the wake of London, the nation's top sports mandarins set a renewed goal to get Australia back into the top five as part of the 10-year "Winning Edge" manifesto.

The last time Australia broke into the top five was the fourth-place finish at Athens in 2004.

"Sports Tally", an annual 'health check' published by the government-backed Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), said Australia could hope to improve on London but still had work to do.

"From an Olympic perspective, Australia has made good progress throughout 2014 and remains on track to improve the overall position from London," AIS director Matt Favier said in a summary of the report.

"The targets announced under 'Winning Edge' were ambitious, and the plan, bold.

"While top five in Rio 2016 remains our goal we recognize, three years into the implementation of 'Winning Edge', this target is aspirational especially considering the high caliber of rival nations.

"That notwithstanding, we remain extremely committed and are working hard towards achieving a top-five finish at Rio 2016."   Continued...