Article by Robert Craddock courtesy of the Australian.
A 67-YEAR-OLD mover and shaker is tracking for her 12th gold medal of the Olympics – without even donning a tracksuit.
If beach volleyballers Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar win a gold medal for Australia today, they will join the nine swimming and two rowing gold medal-winning teams and individuals partially funded by Australia’s richest person, mining magnate Gina Rinehart.
The moral of the story is simple and inescapable – money means medals. Rinehart sponsors four sports and only synchronised swimming has failed to deliver a medal.
“It is not a coincidence,” said Sydney 2000 Olympic beach volleyball gold medallist Natalie Cook.
“That money Gina provides makes such a difference. It has everything to do with those medals. It just helps athletes get by week to week.
“They may find they can go to that extra physio session and not have to rush back and prepare lunch. All those things add up. We need more Ginas but we also have to build on what we have achieved in Tokyo as far as (high performance) funding is concerned.” Cook said Australia’s athletes had excelled, despite the system rather than because of it, and “it is now up to us to go back and backfill the gaps as we build up for the Brisbane Olympics in 2032”.
Rinehart makes an annual $1.4m investment in Australia’s top 50 rowers, directly funding a weekly wage of $525 each to the best 25 men and top 25 women, allowing them to train full-time at the sports training bases.
She joined the rowing ranks after the Rio Olympics and the funding has allowed the rowers to train together rather than be trained by different coaches in their home states.
Rinehart has immersed herself in the Games.
She rose from her chair to lead a standing ovation for pool great Dawn Fraser at a recent function in Brisbane, having celebrated the River City’s 2032 Games hosting announcement with Fraser until after midnight the day before.
She also joined the parents of the Olympic swimmers in viewing the Games in Noosa.
Rinehart said she planned to continue her selective funding of the Games sports beyond Tokyo.
“I am booked into the Paris Olympics in 2024 in all four sports,’’ Rinehart said.
“I have been asked to continue to Los Angeles in 2028. You never know, I am of an elderly vintage but I hope I am around for 2032 as well. “I really enjoy being involved but the parents are the real heroes because they have been there since the journey began.’’