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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK

Australia revels in Games glory

By Phil Mercer
BBC Sport Online in Sydney

Australia has savoured another successful Commonwealth Games.

The medal tally makes the front pages almost every day in all the newspapers here.

And the Sydney Morning Herald said Australia had become a 'nation of golden retrievers' as it featured Cathy Freeman's spectacular return to international competition.

Radio and TV bulletins have relayed news of the constant stream of green and gold success in northern England.

The Games have cast a spell over this sports-mad country.

Only the Wallabies' last-minute Bledisloe Cup win over the All Blacks and the start of Kylie Minogue's sell-out Aussie tour have managed to eclipse news from Manchester.

Ian Thorpe's rise beyond super-stardom has continued.

The champion swimmer's golden arrival in the pool sparked a frenzy of interest back home.

To many newspaper columnists, Thorpe is the athlete who saved the Manchester games from mediocrity.

Sydney's Sun-Herald said it "took Ian Thorpe less than four minutes to lift the Games to another level" during his record-breaking assault on the 400m freestyle.

It was, the tabloid added, enough to "bump news of George Best's liver transplant off the back pages in Manchester".

Thorpe carried the Australian flag in Sunday's closing ceremony.

The Commonwealth Games are considered a giant nursery for Australia's new breed of champions.

The latest star to emerge is 18-year-old Brisbane freestyler Jodie Henry, who won the most prestigious event in the pool - the 100m.

The Australian newspaper said she is now "our best female sprint prospect since Shane Gould in the early 1970s".

Pundits said the same about Cathy Freeman after the 1990 Games in Auckland.

Watching the action live down under is in itself a strenuous exercise, and only for the avid sports fan, night-shift workers or insomniacs.

Commercial television is showing hours of coverage every night.

But the nine-hour time difference between Manchester and Sydney, for example, leaves many key events on air at extremely unsociable times.

The only advantage is that video recording allows you to skip through the heats and the adverts to reach the main sporting dish of your choice, even if you have to avoid the outside world to dodge the results.

England's performances at the games have been widely and, more often than not, fairly covered in the media.

One TV sportscaster has seemed to go out of his way to tell his viewers that the hosts actually aren't as bad as they have been for so many years.

Paula Radcliffe's gutsy win in the 5000m has made it into one newspaper's list of 10 magic moments from Manchester.

Even the 'Pool Poms' have received unexpected plaudits in the papers here.

Zoe Baker's world record in the 50m breaststroke semi-final has raised more than a few eyebrows.

The Aussies aren't about to go soft on the Mother Country, they're just enjoying the new level of competition, but there is a hint of nervousness too.

England's magnificent win over the Australians in the women's hockey semi-final did, however, mysteriously disappear during prime time news.

An editorial, however, in one weekend newspaper did address this Games disaster.

It insisted Australia's "sporting pride has been deeply wounded by defeats in the pool and to the Hockeyroos".


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