Mark Latham seems to have broken the shackles but has he passed the
baton to Mogodon McAvaney? Bruce’s call of the Petria Thomas
spectacular come-from-behind gold medal swim in the 100 metre butterfly
at 3am this morning just lacked that extra element of excitement.

The same goes for the 4×100 women’s freestyle gold on the opening night
– Bruce was certainly not moving at world record pace to declare we had
a world record on our hands. Maybe we’re all too used to Norman May’s
“Gold, Gold, Gold for Australia” but there was a time when
come-from-behind gold medal wins by Australian underdogs in the pool –
who can forget Jon Sieben in LA – warranted OTT commentator histrionics.

Ironically, Bruce has the understated Kieren Perkins in the box with
him offering special comments which only highlights the lack of
intensity as we all remember how excited Neil Brookes used to get
calling Kieren’s various golds over the years.

At least Seven hasn’t had the early disasters of Sydney where they
missed the start of a key gold medal race and had Dennis Cometti
calling Swedes as Australians.

Bruce seemed mildly interested in the first ever Phelps vs Thorpe swim
this morning when Our Ian won the second semi-final in the 200m
free-style although it was disappointing that Thorpie didn’t offer a
post-swim interview to Seven’s Pat Welsh as he did reluctantly after
his swim in the 400 freestyle heat on the opening morning of the games.

Meanwhile, Phelps now looks hard-up to beat Mark Spitz’s record as the
South Africans just smashed the Australian 4×100 freestyle relay world
record in a famous victory. The Dutch took silver, the Americans bronze
and the Australian’s sixth – a far cry from that incredibly night in
Sydney when Thorpie took Australian to gold and the now beaten world

So much for American domination of the pool. The gold tonight went to
Australia, France, South Africa and Japan. Who would have thought? The
last three nations will be going through their Jon Sieben “oh my god,
we’ve won a swimming gold” experience.

Whilst it now looks largely academic, there is an interesting point
about the Phelps tilt at eight gold as one of our jack-of-all trades
sports commentator points out:

By Olympic correspondent Sparkie:

A twist in the Olympic rules could muddy the waters of Michael Phelps’
bid to emulate Mark Spitz’s record seven gold medals at one Olympics.
Although difficult to determine through current media coverage, Michael
Phelps is not the best 100m freestyler or butterflyer on the US team.
This means that unless he upsets world record holder Ian Crocker in the
100m butterfly (he is not contesting the 100m freestyle), he will not
swim in the US medley relay team – one of the seven golds most people
are putting in his tally.

Assuming all his other races follow the script (by no means a certainty
as we’ve just seen in the 4×100 freestyle relay) this would leave him
at six gold medals for the meet.

However, swimmers that swim in the heats but not the finals of a
victorious relay team are still awarded medals. If Phelps swims the
heat, and the US win the final (as they are almost certain to do),
technically Phelps will have won his seventh gold. However, the history
books are likely to take a dim view of medals acquired this way, which
would lead to an interesting statistical standoff between Phelps and

Such a swim fits easily into Phelps’ schedule, although as the heat is
on the morning before the 100m butterfly final, he would probably
prefer to let his rival swim instead.

Given other hurdles in his path (200m freestyle and the 4x200m relay),
this situation may not arise. Alternately, he may win the 100m
butterfly, qualify for the relay, and either sweep the pool, or make up
for a few missed medals on his path to seven. Depending on how events
unfold, this could be a very interesting saga, but most interesting of
all will be the 200m freestyle showdown with Thorpie so set those
alarms for 2am tomorrow morning.

A quieter Bruce is better

By Sasha Uzunov

Bruce McAvaney, the Seven Network’s chief Olympic Games commentator, is
one of those callers who you either strongly admire or can’t stand. I
fall into the former camp but with a few reservations.

Caroline Wilson, Melbourne’s leading Football writer, wrote in last
week’s Sunday Age about how Bruce had been marginalised by his
employer, the Seven Network. Since it lost the Football rights to
rivals Nine and Ten.

“Seven’s sparing use of McAvaney is shame,” her story was headlined. On
that point I would have to disagree. I think Bruce’s time in the
wilderness has made him tone down his over-enthusiasm which at times
distracts from his commentary, no matter what sport it is.

As a young sports journalist in the 1980s, Bruce was my role model. I
admired his thorough knowledge of football, athletics, swimming, and
horse racing. There was nothing that Bruce did not know! But one common
mistake made by Australian sports commentators is that they want to
become the star attraction, rather than letting the sport be the focus.

However, Bruce, for all his trivia, had trouble grappling with complex
issues that he could not find in the sports magazines he devours. For
instance, when Yugoslavia was collapsing in the early 1990s he kept
referring to Croatian tennis player, Goran Ivanisevic, as a Yugoslav,
as he did for the ethnic Hungarian from Serbia, Monika Seles
(pronounced SELESH). As we all know now, Yugoslavia and the Soviet
Union have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Who could forget Bruce confusing Slovenia (which broke away from
Yugoslavia) with Slovakia (which split from Czechoslovakia). After all
this man prides himself on his research!

Britain’s Martin Tyler is the one of the best commentators of soccer in
the world. His use of the English language is outstanding without
sounding too academic. He conveys the emotion and excitement without
forcing himself on listeners and viewers.

Bruce, on the other hand, had a tendency to become a cheerleader,
especially when Australian swimmers were going for gold. This is also
where Bruce is a paradox. He likes to wrap himself in the Australian
flag but at the same time will use the latest trendy American sporting
terms that have no place in Australia let alone in an English language
class room.

Why do our Australian sports journalists need to borrow US terms when
we have our own beautiful Australian English? Why as Australians do we
still have an inferiority complex?

CRIKEY: Whether you like Bruce’s style or not, credit must be given for
his trivial knowledge. Those who watched the Athens Opening Ceremony might
noticed that when the small Micronesian island group of Kiribati
entered the stadium, the English announcer pronounced the name
as it is written, and therefore incorrectly, as Ki- ri-bati. It was
Bruce who then correctly referred to them as Ki-ruh-bas
in his commentary, impressing all those who know of the island group’s
confusing spelling.