John Smallwood: One bet Aussies hated to lose

Posted: August 10, 2012

MANY MAYORS of Philadelphia have surrendered cheesesteaks to their counterparts in other cities for losing a sports bet.

But Australian sports minister Kate Lundy is really going to pay the price after conceding she will lose her wager with British sports minister Hugh Robertson on which nation would win more medals at the Olympics.

As of Wednesday, Great Britain was third on the medal table behind China and USA with 48 total medals - 22 gold.

Australia was eighth with 26 medals - five gold.

Lundy must now row the Olympic course at Eton Dorney wearing a Great Britain team shirt.

"I have cheerfully conceded," said Lundy, 44, a member of the Canberra Rowing Club in Australia.

Cheerfully? Not bloody likely.

Although a former colony of the United Kingdom, Australia still has Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.

Aussies hate losing to the British, and Lundy losing this bet further humbles a nation already smarting from its Olympians not meeting expectations.

Horse play

Rafalca, the horse co-owned by Ann Romney, wife of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, didn't win a medal in the Olympic dressage competition.

But placing 28th means Rafalca has innate skills that can be passed on to the next generation.

Ann Romney said that after another year or 2 of competition with rider Jan Ebeling, Rafalca will be retiring to the breeding farm.

The German-bred mare is likely to turn some heads on the breeding market because of her performances and because of the fame gained from being associated with a potential future first lady.

You go girl

Wearing a long-sleeved green jacket, full-length black pants and a white hood that left only her face exposed, Sarah Attar ran her 800-meter heat on Wednesday to become the first woman to compete in track and field for Saudi Arabia at an Olympics.

She finished next-to-last and did not advance to the next round. She still received a standing ovation from the 80,000 fans at Olympic Stadium.

Attar, 19, has dual heritage with Saudi Arabia and the U.S. and is a citizen of both nations. Born in Escondido, Calif., she grew up in the U.S. and attends Pepperdine University. Her mother is American and her father is Saudi.

"This is such a huge honor and an amazing experience just to be representing women," Attar, who has only spent a little bit of time in Saudi Arabia, told the Associated Press. "I know this can make a huge difference."

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei sent women athletes for the first time, making London the first Olympics in which every nation included female competitors.

Time ouch!

United States women's water polo coach Adam Krikorian almost suffered the same fate as Michigan star Chris Webber until his team bailed him out in overtime.

With the U.S. leading Australia, 9-8, with 1 second left in Tuesday's semifinal match, Krikorian thought goalkeeper Betsey Armstrong had possession of a missed shot so he called timeout.

But Armstrong did not have full possession, and when you call for a timeout without possession in water polo, the punishment is a penalty shot for the other team.

Australia scored to send the game to overtime.

"I had about 2 minutes of 'Oh [bleep]' moments," Krikorian said.

Team USA pulled Krikorian out of the crapper by scoring twice in the first of the two 3-minute overtimes and then held on for an 11-9 win.

Back overseas ladies

While the United States Soccer Federation recognizes the popularity of its highly successful women's team, trying to put together another women's professional league is viewed as a been-there-failed-at-that proposition.

The Women's United Soccer Association was formed in 2000 with the hopes of building on the success of the USA's victory in 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup.

The eight-team league folded after three seasons.

Women's Professional Soccer, which included the Philadelphia Independence, started in 2009 playing off the success of the USA's gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It officially folded on May 18.

"Look, it's pretty simple," USSF president Sunil Gulati said on Wednesday. "An economic model of the sort we've had the last two rounds hasn't worked."

The USA plays Japan for the gold medal Thursday, but then there is nothing major until the 2015 World Cup. With no WPS to return to, many American players will look for jobs in Europe or Japan.

"Across, the world, there is no situation where you've got a fully functioning league where players are making a living across the board," Gulati said of women's professional soccer. "If we can make it sensible soccer-wise, and have a league that plays at a high enough level, it's in [the players'] interest . . . In an ideal world, we want them in the U.S."


Send email to smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/Smallwood.

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