But as Australia digests the week that was and contemplates how to better it, it’s worth pointing out that 11 of the 17 gold medals and one bronze came in disciplines in which the living costs of athletes were not covered by their sporting organisations or government funding, but were paid for by one benefactor alone: the country’s richest person, Gina Rinehart.
Clancy’s journey started with Cathy Freeman’s stunning win in the 400m in Sydney, Artacho del Solar’s started with a signed postcard from Cook and Pottharst as a kid. Artacho del Solar said: “We want to inspire the next generation to take up beach volleyball and we are just so grateful to everyone that has supported us. “The postcard, which was my sister’s , said go for gold and follow your dreams and that lit a fire in me … I want to be on the podium and I want to be a gold medallist.”
It was a much more dominant set that ended 21-13 in Australia’s favour. The victory sees Australia secure its first beach volleyball medal since Natalie Cook and Pottharst won at Sydney 2000.
“We stayed really patient because there was a bit of a patch where I don’t think we were right where we wanted to be but we stayed really strong and took time out in the second set. “So proud of Mariafe. We have one more step. An excited de Solar made it clear what she wanted to take home. “Gold baby! We’re playoff – we’ve played some good games but we’re ready for it,” she yelled.
Following the disappointing results in London, mining magnate Gina Rinehart of Hancock Prospecting quietly stepped in with a huge financial contribution to sponsor four different Olympic disciplines; swimming, rowing, volleyball and artistic swimming. That was clearly a turning point. Now, this long-term commitment, involving establishing training centres and paying salaries, has borne fruit.
“We are one of the best teams in the world,” Clancy said. “Everybody is, that’s why it’s the Olympics. “It was tough that we had to face Mel and Sarah this early, but it’s such a great opportunity that we got to take on that battle early. “Now we just have to do it all over again.”