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Australia finally break through hockey gold barrier
August 28, 2004 18:47 IST
Always the bridesmaid ... and finally the bride.
When Australia stepped on to the pitch for the Olympic men's hockey final on Friday, they were taking on more than the Dutch -- they were beating off a demon as they triumphed 2-1 with a golden goal in extra-time.
Australia have been a world force in hockey for decades but for all the trophies on the shelf, the Olympic gold has been ominously missing.
Commentators talked about the monkey on Australia's back, the Olympic jinx, the missing link.
The Australians have made a record eight Olympic semi-finals and won three silvers and three bronzes.
On Friday, they finally broke through the glass ceiling and added gold to the tally.
"The teams before us had the history of being bridesmaids but we've killed that now," said Jamie Dwyer, who slammed home the penalty corner that beat the Dutch.
In a typically upfront and Australian way, the team had talked through the pressure on them finally to win gold.
"It's not like the issue was suddenly in our face. We've addressed it for some time. It's stupid if you don't that because otherwise there'll be tension," said coach Barry Dancer.
The dry, down-to-earth coach, who was part of the team that won Australia's second silver in Montreal in 1976, said he felt "pride and satisfaction" at having finally rewritten history.
"At last we've stopped you guys asking about it," Dancer joked to reporters, putting the win down to "commitment, mateship in the team, selflessness, depth and fitness".
Much of the credit must also go to Dancer who trained the team out of fearing failure at the finals, instead turning the pressure into motivation to win gold.
Time and again during the Olympics, players have emphasised that they are a new team who have nothing to do with history and everything to do with the future of Australian hockey.
"The bridesmaid stuff has been blown out of proportion," said 24-year-old forward Grant Schubert. "Some of the guys weren't even thinking about that. It means nothing to us and we showed that tonight".
"And besides, now it's gone for good," he grinned.