Cadel Evans victory: best Australian sporting achievement ever?

I don’t particularly like comparisons – they’re a bit of fun, but they don’t mean much. In the realm of sporting achievements so many achievements have merit and I reckon it’s better to appreciate all of them for what the are. There are many ways to become the subject of a trivia question – you can even take your clothes off and hug Bruce Doull.

Yesterday on Offsiders when drawn in to the comparison I mentioned that I thought Cadel Evans’ win in the Tour de France is right up there as Australia’s greatest sporting achievements, but I wouldn’t put it up the top.

I appreciate his courage and determination, and the significance of the victory. Cadel Evans is magnificent – I love how connected he is to his passion. It is a lesson in meaning; a lesson in open-ness. I think we learn so much from Evans. I love the emotional and spiritual (metaphysical)reaction from Evans. But that does not necessarily make his win the best achievement.

One argument (the one that invites the world’s approval) says to be the best, the moment needs to be international, in a sport played around the world by a good number of people, and be very meaningful. It should have cultural significance here.

That excludes cricket, Australian football, the rugbies.

It means we’re looking at the Olympic Games, soccer, contemporary tennis and so on.

I would argue that cycling satisfies those criteria. It has cultural significance. Many people ride, and there is a history of competitive cycling in this country. The Tour is a phenomenally hard-fought and requires such physical and mental courage, and skill and technique. But so do many endeavours at that level. It is truly international. It has a wonderful history. So that’s why the Evans success is right up there.

It is not up there because no Australian has done it before.

On other moments which have been afforded currency, I cannot have the America’s Cup. I cannot have such a low-level achievement as qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

I would have some athletics moments up there: particularly Herb Elliot’s domination of the 1500m, and especially his win in Rome.

I don’t like the culture of swimming as a sport, but I think contemporary swimming does satisfy the criteria established – and we are a nation of swimmers. In pools.  At the beach. So I think there may be some swimming moments worthy of consideration.

But as a matter of personal preference I have been most moved for historical, political, cultural, sporting, aesthetic, spiritual reasons by Catherine Freeman’s win in the 400 metres at the Sydney Olympics. I could write a book about its significance.

The second argument is to say that a great sporting achievement is a great sporting achievement and to say we can choose what we like because it is ours. That then brings all local sport in to play.

So there are a couple of debates. One on the parameters of the argument. And two, on what is the greatest sporting achievement by an Australian?

Your thoughts?

PS A quick look at the history books will reveal a few forgotten classics. Trickett? Pearce?

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH – great topic. The one that immediately leapt to mind for me was Lionel Rose winning the World Title in 1968 (pretty sure it was ’68). When you consider the political and cultural divides in Australia in 1968 (particularly in relation to the indigenous population) his achievement was remarkable. Not only did he conquer deep local racism and cynicism, he also conquered the world in arguably the toughest of all sports.

    In addition, I have heard it said and I have read articles that suggest that Rose’s triumphant return to Melbourne, and the huge public parade that he was presented with, planted the seed for Reconciliation in Australia with indigenous people. That is some achievement.

    Kathy Freeman’s win also brought tears to my eyes.

  2. Dave Nadel says

    I commmented on this on a different thread yesterday. I find it difficult to compare across different sports and different eras but I will have a go.

    First of all there’s a problem with your exclusions, John. I agree that it has to be international and that exludes Aussie Rules and Rugby League but it does not exclude Union which has a genuine World Cup in which at least six countries have a chance of winning, and it certainly does not exclude cricket which is watched by a quarter of the world’s population. (There may only be ten test playing countries but there are a lot of people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh)

    My category is that it should include a feat that no-one else has achieved. To me, that brings it down to three people. Dawn Fraser is clearly Australia’s greatest sportswoman – (Cathy’s medal was more significant socially, but Dawn’s achievements were greater) Fraser won three golds in the premier swimming sprinting event and there is circumstantial evidence that she might have won a fourth in Mexico if she hadn’t been suspended after Tokyo) No swimmer, male or female has ever done that before. No swimmer, male or female will ever do that again.

    The two sportsmen in contention just narrowly trump Dawn. Rod Laver is only person to have won two singles Grand Slams. For all the skills of Borg, Sampras, Federer and Nadal – or for that matter Graf (one slam) Navritlova and the Williams sisters, Laver’s double slam doesn’t even look under threat.

    Then there is Don Bradman and his average of 99.4. Yes, he played in less countries against a far narrower range of opponents than Tendulkar, Lara and Richards, (but he also played on uncovered wickets) . Yes, he had views on race and religion and probably class that would be unacceptable in today’s Australia, but his career remains Australia’s greatest sporting achievement and not only will not be duplicated in the forseeable future but none of the other truly great batsmen since Bradman have even got within thirty runs of the Don’s average!

  3. By not representing Australia, can he be eligible? Great sporting achievement by an australian – tick.
    BTW, how can a women’s 400m event qualify? List other winners for that event before and since and put it in context as a sporting moment.

  4. John
    Apparently there was bike race on Saturday night. Steve and I took in by osmosis back at the rooms. But a fantastic effort set up by two things. Early in the race when he had a fall and one of his team mates stayed with him and dragged back to the field. and Friday night when he went it alone in the hills. Gutsy is not an adequate description. Any sporting event that captured my wifes attention must go all right. I concur with Freeman. While I was not moved that personally by the race itself ( the build up had been unbearable in the media and Bruce was pitiful post race) The race was watched by all Australians and was In Australia making a very personal moment for the host nation. Hell even the good folk of Sydney were happy and that normally take several packets of prozac to stimulate a half grin. I wished Alan Bond had been scuttled on his play thing. That the Australian audience reacted like it did was a source of amazement. It was not a victory for Australia It was an ego blast for a fat rich bloke and some private school yatchies. Most people can afford a bike or can run in barefeet.. Not many can buy a boat and a cup

  5. johnharms says

    Crio, can I turn the question around. Why shouldn’t the women’s 400 metres apply? Most countries have athletics. I take it you are saying that the women’s 400 metres is not one of the feature events – that is is the 3yo maiden plate on the card. I think that the other elements of the Freeman story elevate it in my hierarchy – and that’s just my hierarchy.

    Dave, I thought about cricket, but I’m not sure India gets it through. There re still only a dozen Test nations, and for a long time there were less. I would say cycling is a much bigger sport.

    How do you rate squash – is it the equivalent of cricket? Hockey?

    What of contemporary tennis? Contemporary golf?

  6. It, John, is a remarkably uninteresting race and certainly the best for a punt. They don’t change lanes. It is long enough to eliminate a shaky start. The fastest on form should be a moral.

  7. johnharms says

    Not sure how that fits in with the other criteria, Crio, other than to suggest it lacks intrigue I agree it is certainly not a glamour event, but my criteria were different and I of my own choosing. I do think she carried a huge burden when she woke up that morning.

    I’d be interested in hearing a few others. Where does a golf major sit these days? (Not for me) Or winning a tennis slam?

  8. Not sure I could rate the greatest sporting achievement, but I could list the ones I remember the most which translates to the ones that had the most impact on me at the time.

    Jon Sieben at the 1984 L.A. Olympics. (David V Goliath)
    Better Loosen Up in the 1992(?) Japan Cup. (I was really into the GGs back then)
    Cathy Freeman (Successfully carried the weight of a nation)
    Greg Norman – 1996 US Masters. For all the wrong reasons.

  9. Interesting debate(s). I guess it is all going to come down to the personal for definition of ‘truly great’ and that is always going to be, well, personal.

    At the time, I rated Mark RIchards 4 World Titles in surfing as “never going to hapen again, now Kelly Slater has 10. Does that lessen the achievement? Having to compete in a wide variety of conditions, climates, countries, etc over a period of ten months or so requires a level of consistency very different to a World Title that is based a single event (Cathy Freeman/Olympics) or tournament (Any of the ‘World Cups’ ). Which is fortunate for rugby union followers and not so the All Blacks. That being said, there is still the element that the best in the world set themselves for a particular event.

    Along these lines we could elevate Greg Norman into the upper echelons of greatnessfor achieving the Number 1 status, based on consistent achievement over a number of years, albeit without the collection of major victories. Does that preclude him because there weren’t the ‘moments’ in hs career?

    WInning a tennis or golf slam would be fairly significant, given the rarity of doing so. And that brings me to Cadel Evans. While the Tour is a one off event, it takes 3 weeks to determine a winner. The winner must work with a team, as well as being a master of the various disciplines within cycling, (climbing, sprinting, time trialling as well as just keeping up with the pack) and develop suitable tactics to cope with the short and long term objectives depending on the scenarios presented during the course of each day.

    When I saw the presentation last night, what I saw in Cadel was much the same as I saw in Cathy Freeman. Relief. Different types of relief I think. Cathy was more about living up to the expectations of a nation, while Cadel was just happy to get off the bike. Cadel found it difficult to answer questions about the impact, because he hadn’t processed it yet and therefore found it a bit difficult to figure out how that would affect cycling in Australia, which is fair enough.

    I wasn’t around when Don Bradman, Dawn Fraser, Herb Elliot, et al were kicking goals and painting masterpieces, but I can respect their achievements. I reckon that part of what makes Cadel great is that he is the first Aussie to achieve the feat, but that is not all of why. There are many more reasons than that. Mostly that it seems to be a ‘clean’ effort.

    I reckon it is all great, until the next one. And that is the truth of it. Once something is done we look to other things to inspire us as. Bill Roycroft riding a round of the jumps with a broken collarbone was a great achievement, which I can appreciate without knowing much about horsey stuff. Likewise the America Cup. Yes it was silly man with lots of money, but if it was that easy, why hadn’t it been done by anyone else for 132 years. Likewise the Saints ’66 victory, the Lions 3 in a row, Geelong, heck every Premiership team….

    The moments are fleeting and hopefully provide inspiration when and to whom as required!

  10. Stainless says

    We need to be clear about what we mean by “sporting achievement”.

    Evans’ win (and Freeman’s for that matter) are clearly among the all-time great one-off achievements. But these are very different to some of the other suggestions put forward like Bradman’s great batting record or Rod Laver’s double slam. Achievements, certainly, but they’re the accumulated result of long, outstanding sporting careers rather than the one-off, hair standing up on the back of your neck, “I remember where I was when…” occasions that I think JTH is talking about.

    This makes for a further layer of interesting contemplation. I don’t think we’d rank Evans or Freeman in the same exalted bracket as Bradman or Laver, and yet did these long-term champions achieve any such outstanding individual moments of greatness? I daresay Laver’s final victory to achieve the double slam would have been a pretty remarkable one (I’m not enough of a tennis buff to know where he did it or against whom), but the best I can come up with for Bradman was 300 in a day at Leeds against a pop-gun England attack.

  11. I know this is about individual achievement in sports that are “global”, but…

    Would the greatest Australian sporting achievement be beating the Mother country at cricket in 1882?

  12. Alovesupreme says

    I’m going to play devils’ advocate:
    Cathy Freeman: her major rival didn’t run in an event which did not have a particularly competitive field.

    Don Bradman: obviously incomparable in his time, but there were effectively only two nations that were operating at a competitive level. West Indies, India and South Africa at that time were as distant from being serious competitors as grade cricket teams are from Test level in contemporary cricket.

    Rod Laver: his 2nd grand slam certainly passes muster, but his first has to be seen in the context of the exclusion of the best players who had turned professional; also at that time tennis was not internationally competitive. It was widely played in Australia, but only small numbers from the well-to-do classes in a handful of other countries played. Contemporary tennis is searingly competitive, because of its wider availability in many more countries.

    Dawn Fraser for me is borderline, because at the time swimming was similar to tennis. It’s an exaggeration to say so, but winning the Australian championships was almost as difficult as winning at the Olympics, (particularly in women’s events).

    Herb Elliott’s domination of an event (I think he was unbeaten at the mile and 1500 metres) crowned by his magnificent world record at the Rome Olympics was for me the greatest feat by an Australian. The event had hot competition – only slightly qualified because it was largely confined to the developed world.

    For inspirational performances which affected me, I’d say Cathy Freeman in Sydney and Kieren Perkins 1500 free at Atlanta. I don’t like boxing, but Lionel Rose’s achievement, for the reasons articulated by Dips, certainly ranks highly.

    If we’re looking at domination in lesser sports, Heather McKay and Walter Lindrum warrant a shout.

  13. Richmond’s next win will rate as a big achievement :)

    Thanx for the fun fun times @ the North Fitzroy Arms on Saturday night. The Phantom & I had a ball.

    P.S I still reckon the America’s Cup 1983 rates highly.

  14. Good debate this one John – pity it’s a Monday and not yesterday at the pub!

    I think it’s too hard to rank one above another because they are so different in era, sport, and meaning to everyone. I am not a big fan of cricket, boxing, yachting or horse racing, so find it hard to even consider moments from those sports as they have little impact on me.

    One thing about Evans TDF performance that adds to the impact it has had/will have is the wonderful example of perseverance it sets. Eighth, then fourth. Then runner up twice. Then two years of poor results (firstly when undermined by his team, secondly due to tragic injury when in yellow). Throw in a 2009 world championship, risky switch to a new team, not to mention the death of a mentor too. Then bang – a winner when all said he was too old and not up to it. Remarkable.

    The preceeding heartache or journey makes it so much sweeter. Like Perkins 1500m gold from Lane 8 in Atlanta 1996.

    What role does the back story play in us assessing the moment? Does it count?

    Incidentally, does the moment always have to be about winning? Do we dismiss everything else and let ‘gold, gold, gold’ cloud our judegment? Did we love Hackett’s 1500m gold at Sydney 2000, or the fact that King Kieren claimed an incredibly respectable silver when all and sundry said he was done and dusted? Who do we remember more from that night?

    I heard Steve Moneghetti speak once and explain that his proudest result was his race at the Barcelona Olympics 1992, where he came somewhere around 40th. The public disappointment was enormous – he was the favourite at the time, the best marathoner in the world. 40th wasn’t acceptable, a disgrace.

    But Monna explained how utterly cooked he was, how ill, how much that grinding hil over the final kilometres up to the Olympic stadium almost destroyed him, and how proud he was to finish as it showed guts and determination he thought he didn’t posess.

    I guess these are just private moments where we as the sporting public can never know the finer detail, and therefore can’t appreciate that 40th can also mean triumph.

    But to throw another great moment into the mix though and keep the conversation going:

    Does Kerryn McCann get a nod with her Commonwealth Games marathon (yes, only Comm games, but what a truly amazing story!). In Melbourne no less and at the G. The drama of that final few kilometres was truly incredible.

  15. Alovesupreme – you make some good points.

    How many world titles did Geoff Hunt win at squash?

  16. Alovesupreme says

    I intended to say, and inadvertently omitted, that I rank Cadel’s performance very close to the summit, if not there. I’d argue his recovery from the attack on Thursday (?) by the Schlecks and his stunning performance in the time trial near the end of the gruelling three weeks, was outstanding.
    There’s also the factor of his sustained performance throughout the race this year, but also over several previous Tours.

  17. Alovesupreme, your post reminded me of one…

    I was an Australian athlete who is celebrated in the US, but am not even an after thought here.

    I did not come first, and that is perhaps why I remained anonymous but my achievement in a blue-ribbon field event at an Olympics was none-the-less above all expectation and the time I ran is still an Australian record more than forty years later.

    Personally, I will never see it broken.

    Who am I?

  18. Ross,

    it was pretty messy at about 11.30 pm on Saturday in the pub.

  19. johnharms says

    Pete, does he have a dog of a Christian name? He really is a forgotten man of Australian sport.

  20. Dave Nadel says

    Yes, Pete, you are the Australian runner that I most admire – Peter Norman.

    Afro-American athletes born years after Peter ran at Mexico City knew his name and held him in awe because of his role in support of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium after the 200m. Peter Norman died nearly five years ago and still holds the Australian record for 200 metres. (20.00 seconds)

    His greatest achievement was not the time that he ran but the fact that he wore a badge that publically showed his support for Smith and Carlos’ protest. He almost certainly paid for his support in 1972 when he was not selected in the Australian team for Munich despite having run a qualifying time 13 times for the 200 and 7 times for the 100. Smith and Carlos were pall bearers at Norman’s funeral.

    If you don’t know this story, go and watch the DVD of the movie Salute made by Peter’s nephew Matthew.

  21. Dave Nadel says

    Stainless you are probably right that I was comparing career achievements while this thread is about individual moments.

    Alovesupreme 1. I repeat, it doesn’t matter that all of Bradman’s international experiences were against England because Indian and West Indies cricket had not fully developed. The minor reason it doesn’t matter is that Bradman’s runs were made on wickets that were uncovered overnight and were often much harder to bat on than those played on by contemporary cricket champions. The major reason is that Bradman’s career average (99.94) is so far above those of the other great batsmen (Richards, Lara, Tendulkar, G. Chappell, Ponting) that there can be little doubt that Bradman would have played as well against the West Indies, South Africa and India at their top.

    2.Rod Laver’s first Grand Slam may have been during the period when the best players played as amateurs for a few years and then turned professional and were barred from the Slans and the Davis Cup – but if it was that easy to win slams how come none of the other great players of the 50s and 60s won a grand slam. Actually even if you ignore all the Grand Slam results before the Open era, Rod Laver becomes the only male player to win the Grand Slam which is almost as impressive.

    3. Swimming was not the same as Tennis. There was no significant professional circuit and all the top swimmers competed until they retired (unless they were suspended by the petty dictators of the ASU) You are right that the Australian Women’s championships were nearly as difficult to win as the Olympics in the mid-fifties, that is because in 1956 the Australian women swimmers were the best in the world and won gold, silver and bronze in the Olympic 100m. I don’t think that diminishes Dawn’s achievement in the slightest. Three consecutive Olympic victories in the premier swimming sprinting event has only been achieved once and will only be achieved once. (and it could have been four)

  22. Deaks win in the 1983 marathon @ the Worlds was big @ the time.

  23. A great debate. I agree with everything ALS said, including the mention of Walter Lindrum.
    For the reasons he outlined I rank Evans first for an ‘international sporting achievement’, just ahead of Elliot, Perkins and Rose. I agree with John’s argument about the social significance of Freeman and the pressure/national celebration. I just think she didn’t have the class of opposition without Perec.
    Bradman, Laver, Fraser, Elliot, and Cuthbert for sporting careers. Lindrum, Geoff Hunt and Heather McKay probably lack the breadth of international competition in their sports but were certainly dominant.

  24. forwardpocket says

    John, I am most interested to have you elaborate on your dislike for swimming culture.
    In my hierarchy the unexpectedness of the victory elevates the achievement, also the victories you witness as a boy or girl retain a certain gloriousness. Deaks, Dean Lukin, Australia II are some of my highest rated achievements. What about Glen Housman’s breaking the 17 year old 1500m record in 1990 only for it to be disallowed, it was an incredible achievement even if not officially recognised by the authorities and paved the way for Perkins and Hackett.
    I have been intrigued that it took a while for Freeman’s victory to be remembered in the last couple of days. I happened upon a replay of it recently and it was certainly a great sporting moment – the majesty and freedom of running and the simplicity of one lap around the track. I do wonder why its significance outside of being a great sporting moment has seemingly diminished. Is it that there was great hope that it would be significant but that has subsequently not been realised.
    For me Cadel’s win is the greatest – at 34 , after a faultless tour, his dream of 20 years was over as he hit the Galibier 4 minutes down and totally, utterly alone in a sea of humanity. A fat, 30 something bloke on a couch half the world away in the dead of night, I was treated to one of the greatest displays of strength and will I have ever seen.

  25. johnharms says

    I actually think, within the parameters/criteria I created to explain my own preference, swimming as a sport is a legitimate theatre for the finest Australian sports achievement. It is something we do broadly as a people – pool, school, beach, creek, big hole, dam – and have done for a long time. I think nowadays there are enough swimmers competing from a diverse range of countries that to win a gold medal is quite an achievement, although I’ll argue against myself by observing that the medal tally in swimming reads like the OECD list.

    I don’t like the culture of swimming because it is incredibly authoritarian in my experience. I am amused that K. Perkins still calls his coach Mr (King? was it?). So much of it is about pleasing someone. I have watched squads in their gruelling work and have observed the tone of the relationships.

    But this probably has a bit to do with my broader view of sport, that I like natural ability to triumph.

    Each to their own of course.

  26. I find the swimming m,edia insufferable.
    A recreation.

  27. Skip of Skipton says

    I can’t rate Cathy Freeman’s victory at the Sydney Olympics because of Perec’s mysterious late scratching a few days before the athletics kicked off. Had she have beaten Perec then it would rate very highly.

    If it wasn’t for some dodgy refereeing in the Round of 16 match vs. Italy, then the Socceroos at the 2006 World Cup would more than likely have made the semis. They would have had Ukraines measure in the 1/4s. That would have been right up there.

    As for individual achievements, I’d have to rate Herb Elliott at Rome or Deek in the worlds at Helsinki? Running is the purest sport open to all mankind regardless of their race, nationality, secio-economic status etc. The likes of Yachting, Motor racing, and even cycling and swimming have varying degrees of exclusivity to them. Having said that I reckon Cadel’s effort would be in the best handful.

  28. @johnharms – not sure whether Peter is a dog of a name or just so common that its forgettable!

    As Dave Nadel explained, Peter Norman is an incredible inspiration. The documentary was excellent.

    Another criterion for greatest sporting achievement could be the impact the achievementt had on the sport itself in terms of participation rates.

    I know that when Greg Welch won the Hawaii Iron man, it inspired a generation of triathletes.

  29. johnharms says

    Sorry Pete, I misread your comment. I thought you were talking about Ralph Doubell. Who was more than placed, he won. Hence Ralph and the canine reference.

  30. Pamela Sherpa says

    John , it really annoyed me that the first reaction to Cadel’s victory by the media was to compare it to other sports. It detracted from the sheer outstanding effort the win was in it’s own right. It would have been nice to have at least 24 hours of focus on actual race victory itself

  31. I used to call my swimming coach ##*//””^^@ John.

    To continue on from the fire side discussion I don’t think we should filter out the ones that we personally don’t like or believe discriminate against someone or another.

    All elite sport discrimanates against some one (many some ones) and therefore if we cut to the quick we should look simply at what are great performances. It may be a bit rough slipping over to the person, who is bent over vomiting after smashing a world record, and telling them that their performance has been degraded because kids in Somalia didn’t get the opportunity to compete.

    When comparing different sports it is a double edged sword. Rocket Rod’s two grand slams may never be repeated – every country plays tennis (and beats Australians) so they count.

    Michael Wendon broke two world records at alitiude in Mexico City after having asthma attacks prior to swimming.

    The choice in this process will always be influenced by some type of biased emotion. Therefore it will always be a difference of opinion.

  32. Perec did not run against Freeman because she knew she would lose. She clearly copped out.

    There were two races going on there. The race to the start and the race to the finish.

    Freeman clearly won both.

  33. Mark Doyle says

    Cadel Evans win was a great achievment and well deserved, especially because of his record of finishing second in mountain bike and Tour De France races. Comparisons with other sports achievments are silly and ridiculous. Comparisons with previous Tour De France winners are difficult. If the 100 year history of the Tour De France is known, you can appreciate the difficulty of comparing previous winners. In my opinion the greatest Tour De France cyclist is Eddy Merckz – he not only won 5 general classification yellow jerseys, but also several points jerseys for stage finishes as well as several mountains points jerseys. Cadel Evan’s riding style reminds me of another great Tour De France winner, Miguel Indurain – both these blokes were very consistent riders and did not have the acceleration of blokes such as Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador.

    Finally we do not need any heroworship from the public and the media. We should only appreciate that winning a Tour De France is incredibly difficult and requires a lot of support from other team riders, coaches, mechanics, sports medicine, sports science, sponsors, family and a lot of good luck.

  34. If Hayden Ballantyne’s kick had travelled another few centimetres that would have been it.

    In The West today that put that stupid bloody America’s Cup number one.

  35. Alovesupreme says

    You mention the diminishing of the impact of Cathy Freeman’s win after the event. I’d offer a speculation (fuelled by my political prejudices).
    The Sydney Games was a shining moment in Australia’s cultural history, far bigger than sport. The volunteers, the effective use of even Sydney’s public transport system, Roy and HG, and no doubt plenty of other memories for Almanackers.
    For a brief period, the conflicts, the strife, and the struggles of day-to-day living didn’t seem to matter. The country was unified and the possibilities seemed limitless. That sense was encapsulated at the time of Cathy’s win (and we probably pinned too much hope in it).
    12 months later, the Tampa sailed over the horizon, and we learned that we hadn’t been all that united.

    Mark Doyle,
    Of course this is the trivial kind of discussion, which sports fans waste time on; What would we talk about in the pub, if it wasn’t for the subjective assessment of sportsmen, sportswomen and teams? It’s all a matter of opinion, and it’s clear from the posts on this thread, we haven’t even settled the agreed criteria.

  36. Jack Brabham’s many world F1 championships, and Alan Jones’ one…

    And I’m amazed that there is discussion of Greg Norman but none of Peter Thomson’s five British Opens

  37. My thoughts at the time were that Perec knew she was either going to be beaten by Cathy or get caught out in the doping tests…

  38. Les – I agree with you about the America’s Cup. And if Ballantyne’s kick had travelled another metre “that would have been it”!!!###****

  39. Neil Belford says

    I have been musing about this since it finished. I was about to fall asleep the other night when Andy Schleck took off. From that point, until the end of the time trial this was no holds barred racing, and Evans had no friends. There were plots and subplots, there were fifteen different agenda’s, forming and smashing alliances by the minute it seemed. But for Cadel, good as his team had been they were gone and he got nothing from anybody else. He rode harder and faster and further at the front than anybody else, and even with the gap Andy Schleck put into him with the assistance of his teammates, Evans was still able to win the race off his own pedals. If the BMC team can afford a couple of climbers next year he will win 2012 by 5 minutes.

    He was the best in the race, and in the world, and to get there he has held mind and body together against all sorts of travails, over many years. He was runner up twice and subsequently two time road racing world champion, and he just kept on coming, just focused on being the greatest rider of this generation – which he now is.

    It certainly has lacked the flat out media frenzy of Cathy, Bradman, Herb Elliot, Lionel Rose, and all the others(from which I take nothing away). But for various and differing reasons, it was better than all of them. For me, this was the greatest sporting achievement by any Australian ever.

    I would just change two things in forwardpockets appraisal – in fact I will paraphrase

    For me Cadel’s win is the greatest – at 34 , after a faultless tour, his dream of 20 years was over as he hit the Galibier 4 minutes down and totally, utterly alone in a sea of humanity. A fat, 50 something bloke on a couch half the world away in the dead of night, I was treated to the greatest display of strength and will I have ever seen.

  40. Peter Flynn says


    F R Spofforth (1882 The Oval).

    Deeks at Helsinki.

    L Rose.

    Bill Roycroft

    Kim Hughes in Melbourne batting on a minefield against scary bowlers.

  41. Grant Fraser says

    If anyone DOESN’T rate Australia II’s win in the top 5, and presumably swallows the “unbeatable super boat” line, try to get hold of a copy of Bertrand’s book “Born to Win” and read his version of the preparation for the unbolting of the auld mug.
    How we rate these sporting events may be a matter of the benchmarks against which the performance is measured. Putting to one the dedication and preparation and extraordinary talent of the men who SAILED the boat, I place this event up there in terms of how it attracted the attention of the Australian population. I was there at the ‘G for the Saturday of 1983 Grand Final and bellowed out with the crowd “We’re with you, Australia II”. I was up all night on the Tuesday watching the event, and saw our new PM utter the oft quoted line about any boss who dared sack their workers for turning up late “is a bum”. I was also there in the Monash law school when we dragged ourselves in for a 9 a.m. Evidence lecture…and was surprised when a bloke in pajamas entered the lecture theatre from the right, plonked a 6 pack of VB on the lectern and departed through the left hand door. Sensing the moment, the lecturer looked around, reached for a can and said “bugger it let’s have a beer and talk about the Cup”. For a beautiful moment in time, Australia was as one.

  42. Matt Quartermaine says

    Greatest achievements by sports people? I’d put Ian Chappel defending the boat people/refugees during the Howard era. Big act of bravery that.

  43. Shane Johnson says

    I was born in 54
    Evans win is the best individual sporting achievement on the world stage by an Aussie for mine
    The gut busting preparation, skill, technique, consistency of effort, mental toughness over many years to achieve the Everest of Cycling is number one in my book
    Other individual efforts in this class on an aerobic/anaerobic level would be
    Lionel Roses win
    Cathy Freemans win
    Kerian Perkins win
    De Castella rates a mention as well
    Ralph Doubell was pretty good too along with Herb Elliot
    I agree totally with Neil Bedford
    He is the best road cyclist Australia has ever had and Danny Clark the great Tasmanina who won 70 six day bike races in Eurpoe the best track rider
    Again the best ever by an aussie for me
    Should be knighted

  44. Rather than rank the great sports men and women I rather think of Cadel joining a very exclusive club.
    Where PBs break records long held and set standards that span generations.
    Very few join this club we we can recite they names long after they have gone.
    Well done Cadel your membership awaits.

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