Olympics: Aussie committee chief John Coates backs Ian Thorpe on call to ban medal targets

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates (left) said the committee and Ian Thorpe are "completely at one on this subject".
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates (left) said the committee and Ian Thorpe are "completely at one on this subject".PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates has backed Ian Thorpe's call for an end to medal targets at the Games to ease the pressure on athletes.

The AOC has set, but not met, targets of top-five finishes in the medals table at the last three Summer Games, while individual sports have also had their own targets.

Former champion swimmer Thorpe, the country's most decorated Olympian, told a sports forum that athletes freed from the targets would put in performances that led to medals anyway, and Coates agreed.

"Ian and the AOC are completely at one on this subject," Coates said in a media statement on Wednesday (June 6).

"In November 2016, the AOC executive fully endorsed the position that no targets be set in our programme and funding guidelines for both Tokyo 2020 Summer Games and also this year's Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

"We actively stepped away from setting targets for the very reasons that Ian has rightly raised in recent days."

Long-serving boss Coates has been less equivocal about medals targets in the past, and complained at the 2016 Rio Games that Australia had failed to achieve its marks while blaming the government's funding agency for the disappointing results.

Australia finished 10th on the medals table at Rio with 29 medals, its lowest haul at a Summer Games in 24 years.

The nation grabbed three medals at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang in February, matching the haul from Sochi four years earlier.

"With no targets set, the athletes were in the position to express themselves," Coates said of Pyeongchang.

"Consequently, we equalled the number of medals won with three first-time medal winners and we recorded more top six results than in any previous Games."

Australia finished 23rd in the Pyeongchang medals table, one better than in Sochi but well off their 2010 best of 13th at Vancouver.