Going for gold

The lifelong dreams of 472 athletes will be realised this week when they represent Australia and chase gold in the Tokyo Olympics.

Emotions will be flowing throughout the biggest fortnight in world sport, with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing the XXXII Olympiad to the ultimate test.

Australia has sent its second largest contingent ever to Tokyo and one of those competitors who will wear the green and gold with pride will be Emily Seebohm.

The 29-year-old was born in Adelaide, but holds strong Millicent connections  and will take part in her fourth consecutive summer games, a feat only matched  in the Dolphins squad by fellow Olympic Gold medalists Leisel Jones and Cate Campbell.

Seebohm will go for gold in the 100m and 200m backstroke events, plus the 4 x 100m medley relay.

She has happy memories in all of those disciplines in her journey at the highest level, which started with a dream debut 13 years ago.

 Representing Australia for the first time at the tender age of 16, Seebohm achieved her lifelong ambition in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The teenager was given the pressure-packed role of getting Australia off  to a good start in the 4x 100m medley relay and rose to the occasion with a fast backstroke leg.

Seebohm’s efforts helped the strong team of Jones, Libby Trickett and Jessica Schipper become national heroes by taking home gold and smashing the world record by over three seconds.

In her second summer games in London four years later, Seebohm was pipped at the post by USA’s Missy Franklin by 0.35s and had to settle for silver.

Later in those games Seebohm doubled her silver medal tally when the USA  edged out Australia again in the 4x100m medley final.

When the games went to Rio in 2016, Seebohm was  the last surviving member of the  golden four from Beijing and helped the new-look 4x100m medley team to silver – Australia’s sixth consecutive Olympic medal in the event.

Despite achieving five Olympic medals, Seebohm wants to make a statement in the pool after a bumpy road to Tokyo.

The 29-year-old missed selection for the FINA 2019 World Championships, but the setback powered her greater things when the selection trials arrived in Adelaide.

She swam with speed to finished second in the 100m backstroke final to book her ticket to Japan.

Although Seebohm is the only Limestone Coast based athlete in Tokyo, the region has still touched others in their pursuit for gold.

The highest profile case is the South  East’s connection with some of the biggest stars on two wheels.

 During a huge weekend of cycling in May, the Mount Gambier Cycling Club was lucky enough to host both the Australian Track Worlds men and women teams competed the Lush Deserts 100 Mile Classic and MGA South Australian Kermesse Championships.

The elite riders used picturesque roads of Port MacDonnell, Millicent and the Blue Lake to get their legs ready for the challenges they will face in Tokyo and dominated both events with Annette  Edmondson, Kelland O’Brien and Alexandra Manly tasting success.

The men’s team of O’Brien, Leigh Howard, Lucas Plapp, Alex Porter and  Sam Welsford will be of particular interest after the combination set the world on  fire in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

They could be the team to beat in the 4000m team pursuit.

The likes of Edmondson, Alexandra Manly, Maeve Plouffe, Ashlee Ankudinoff and Georgia Baker, who all competed in the Limestone Coast will  also chase gold in the men’s and women’s pursuit and omnium events.

 Just one week after the Lush Deserts 100 Mile Classic and MGA South Australian Kermesse Championships,  another world-class Australian representative was in the heart of Mount Gambier.

 The green and gold’s leading BMX rider Saya Sakakibara set the Blue Lake City’s pumptrack alight.

The 21-year-old used her victorious  campaign at the Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Qualifier as a “fun” way to prepare for Tokyo.

Sakakibara has already got a World  Championship under her belt and is desperate to add the prestigious Olympic  gold medal to her impressive resume.

The Australian softball team will also have plenty of support from the Limestone Coast after Mount Gambier’s Georgia Hood played an integral part in the squad’s preparation in Japan.

She was named in the final training squad and travelled to the land of the rising sun in June as the Australians  prepared for the summer games playing against Japanese professional  teams.

Although Hood missed the final cut, her time with the team was invaluable and if the Aussie Spirit is claims the first softball gold medal since the Beijing games in 2008, Mount Gambier has a big reason to celebrate.

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