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London 2012: Australian Olympic Collapse Suggests Britain Now Has Upper Hand In Sport (PICTURES)

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UPDATE: Since the time of publication, Great Britain has won three more gold medals.

The sight of Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm breaking down in a press conference after winning only silver in the 100m backstroke said much about national expectations placed on athletes as they enter the sporting arena. The twitter spat that followed between a fan seemingly criticising Seebohm’s second place finish and a member of her family was a little less dignified, but equally instructive.

emily seebohm

Seebohm kissing the silver medal - an all too familiar feeling for Australia?

Failure to win has become an emblem for the green and gold at the London Olympics, with several high-profile competitors failing to live up to their pre-Games billing as favourites.

The lacklustre performance of the Aussies is even more noticeable when contrasted with the performance of Team GB, who seem to be increasing their medal haul daily. At the time of writing, GB sat fourth in the medals table. Australia sat 17th. Yes – it’s early, but recall four years ago in Beijing GB finished fourth overall and Australia finished sixth.

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And it's not just Team GB lauding it over Australia. Team New Zealand, traditionally the little brother in any antipodean squabble, is also enjoying considerable success in London, having won three gold and two bronze medals. The Kiwis currently sit tenth in the table.

In the pool, traditionally one of the Australia's strongest disciplines, the collapse has been most noticeable, with a series of dramatic failures leaving the national press searching for answers as to the cause of the decline.

After James Magnussen placed second to Nathan Adrian from the US in the 100m freestyle on Wednesday, and failed to qualify for the final of the 50m freestyle a day later, the Australian papers were full of quotes of "mental exhaustion".

Magnussen had come into the Games as World Champion.

Earlier in the week, the Australian 4x100m freestyle relay team, which included Magnussen, placed outside the medals in the final. They were favourites to win the race.

rice

Rice in tears after failing to win the 200m medley

Even Stephanie Rice, a triple gold medal winner for Australia in Beijing, failed to make an impact in either the 200m or 400m medley events, a disappointment which left the former champion weeping by the side of the pool. Though injury played its part, Rice is now talking of retirement.

Australia did taste success on Saturday in the women's 4x100m freestyle. However, it remains the country's only gold of the games.

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Outside the pool the lack of success has continued. On Thursday in the Velodrome, Australian sprinters Kaarle McCulloch and Anna Meares collected only a bronze despite the fact the pair have been world champions for the past three years. They were expected to win. They didn’t even make the final.

In the rowing, Scott Brennan and David Crawshay, winners of the men’s double skulls in Beijing, looked a solid bet for a medal before the Games. Again, Australia didn’t even make the final.

On Friday in the women's double skulls, the Australian pair of Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley finished with silver in the finals. The event was won by Kath Grainger and Anna Watkins of Team GB.

james magnussen

James Magnussen rests on the ropes after finishing second in the 100m freestyle

Beyond the Olympics, a decline in Australian sorting prowess has also been evident. In one-day cricket, the Aussie’s are ranked first, but were recently drubbed 4-0 by England. In Twenty20 they are ranked fifth, and second in the five-day game.

In tennis too, the country that so recently produced Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter, have only one player in each of the top 50 for men and women. The country is ranked 20th in the world and did not qualify for the Davis Cup. Meanwhile Murray only just missed out on winning Wimbledon.

There is some hope for Australia in track and field at London 2012. Sally Pearson should place in the 100m hurdles, but she will face stiff competition for the gold from US runners Dawn Harper and Lolo Jones.

Mitchell Watt has a chance in the long jump, while on the ocean Tom Slingsby could take gold in the laser sailing.

RANKING: Click here for the current medals table

Perhaps the best bet for gold rests with the Kookaburras, the Australian men’s hockey team, who are ranked number one in the world and are favourites to win the tournament.

Yet overall, London 2012 is looking at becoming an increasingly forgettable Olympics for the Aussies, and not just for sporting failure. On Wednesday rower Josh Booth went on a drunken rampage through Egham and was consequently sent home by the AOC.

OPINION: Disagree? Leave your comments below

So with a week to go and GB playing on home soil, you won’t find many people placing bets on Australia finishing higher than the hosts in the medal ranking.

Perhaps it is finally time to admit it – Britain is just better than Australia at sport.

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