Special Report Four Part One: The 1988 Seoul Olympics — Week One.
- A panel of three Northern Territory Supreme Court of Criminal Appeal judges deliver a unanimous verdict quashing the murder convictions of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. In a statement released by their lawyer, the Chamberlains thank “the decent and fair-minded Australians” who had supported them during their eight-year odyssey following the disappearance and death of their daughter, Azaria, in August 1980.
- As the race for the U.S. Presidency enters the final turn, the campaign of Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis makes a catastrophic error of judgement. In order to douse fears that Dukakis would be weak on national defence issues, campaign aides have Dukakis drive a M1 Abrams tank while wearing a very distinctive helmet in front of television cameras. The so-called “Snoopy Incident” provides unending fodder for late-night comedians and makes the candidate look like a fool.
-In Bruges, Belgium, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sets her standard firmly within the camp of the Eurosceptic members of her Conservative Party. Speaking on the European Community’s plans to form a wider political and economic union, Thatcher proclaims that “We
have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the State in Britain, only to see them re- imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”
-In Burma, military leaders overthrow the nation’s democratically elected government and begin a wide-spread crackdown on student protesters in the streets of the capital, Rangoon.
-The VFL season draws near its close: Hawthorn and Melbourne will meet in the Grand Final after the Demons win the Preliminary Final 19.6 (120) to 14.14 (98) over Carlton. As the Demons celebrate reaching the Grand Final for the first time since 1964, Sydney’s Gerard Healy is awarded the Brownlow Medal, finishing four votes clear of Essendon’s Simon Madden and Hawthorn’s Jason Dunstall.
-The most notable death of the week was that of British comic actor Roy Kinnear. Kinnear, who was 54, dies from injuries suffered after falling off a horse while filming The Return of the Musketeers in Toledo, Spain.
-“Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “A Groovy Kind of Love” and “Simply Irresistible” sat atop the music charts.
The Games of the XXIV Olympiad begin on September 17th, 1988 with an Opening Ceremony held in front of 100,000 people in the Olympic Stadium and a television audience numbered in the billions. The 295 member Australian team was led into the stadium by hockey legend (and Federal MP for the seat of Perth) Dr. Ric Charlesworth, now in his fourth Olympic campaign with the Kookaburras. Also marching with the team was Dawn Fraser, who after 24 years in the AOC’s doghouse was finally welcomed back into the fold. Despite being awarded the lowest level of accreditation, Fraser would become an integral member of the team; her presence would prove crucial at several events, beginning with a tall Queenslander and his one of a kind coach.
The men’s 200m freestyle final was truly a clash of the titans. Australia’s Duncan Armstrong qualified fourth-fastest, but was not expected to make much of an impression against swimmers of the calibre of Poland’s Artur Wojdat, Sweden’s Anders Holmertz, West Germany’s Michael Gross (who held the world record in the event) and America’s Matt Biondi, who was aiming to equal Mark Spitz’s records of seven gold medals at one Olympic Games. The only two people who thought Armstrong had a chance were Armstrong himself and his coach, Laurie Lawrence. Lawrence, a man never at a loss for words, delivered a masterful final set of instructions to Duncan: “If you want to win the gold Duncan, you’ve got to beat three world record holders — let them know you’re around, use your legs on every turn and bring it home. Stick on Biondi’s wake all the way.” Armstrong’s response was “Don’t worry; I’ll be the fourth world record holder after the race.”
Armstrong, drawn in lane six for the final, had a race plan that called for him to ride on Biondi’s wake for the first two and a half laps, then move to striking distance of the lead by the final turn. The plan worked to perfection: by the final turn Armstrong, Biondi and Holmertz were in a dogfight for the medals. In the last lap, with Fraser, Lawrence and a nation roaring him home, Armstrong sprinted away to win in a time of 1:47.25, 0.19 inside the previous world record set by Gross at the Olympics in Los Angeles four years prior. Holmertz won the silver medal and Biondi finished with the bronze. Caught up in the emotion of the moment, Lawrence was asked by Ten Network correspondent Stephen Quartermain (whom he had just put in a headlock) “Can you talk, now mate? How do you feel, Laurie?” Laurence’s response: “Mate, we just beat three world record holders (left hand slap on the cheek)! How do you think I feel (slap again on Quartermain’s cheek)?!” He went on: “We did it again, we did it again... Lucky Lane Six... What do you think we’ve come here for, the silver? Stuff the silver, we came for the gold!’ As Lawrence was tossed into the pool by jubilant Australian team members, Armstrong went for his mandatory drug test, accompanied by former Olympian Mike Wenden. Wenden, who had won the same race in Mexico City two decades prior, was later quoted as saying “I told Duncan I had great pride in signing a piece of paper which said he had a piss!”
After the excitement of reliving Australia’s first gold medal of these Games, let’s now turn our attention to our reason for being here...
Ray Borner, Mark Bradtke, Wayne Carroll, Brad Dalton, Andrew Gaze, Damien Keogh, Luc Longley, Darryl Pearce, Larry Sengstock, Robert Sibley*, Phil Smyth (captain), Andrew Vlahov.
Coach: Dr. Adrian Hurley
Assistant Coach: Brian Kerle
Team Manager: Terry Charlton
Sandy Brondello, Donna Brown, Jenny Cheeseman, Karen Dalton, Shelley Gorman, Robyn Maher, Pat Mickan, Marina Moffa, Julie Nykiel, Debbie Slimmon, Michelle Timms, Maree White.
Coach: Robbie Cadee
Assistant Coach: Ray Tomlinson
Team Manager: Lorraine Landon
*Robert Sibley did not play a match having suffered a fracture in his right wrist prior to departing Australia.
Australia’s referees at the tournament were Geoff Weeks and Ray Hunt.
Sunday 18th September 1988.
Pool A Match: Boomers vs. Puerto Rico
Final score: Boomers 81- Puerto Rico 77
The Boomers had little time to soak in the Olympic spirit: their first game against the highly regarded Puerto Ricans was played at 9:30 a.m. local time the day after the Opening Ceremony. Our hopes rested to a large extent on the performance of Andrew Gaze, who was in the process of preparing to join Seton Hall University over the summer of 1988/89. As was the case in the recent (2010) World Championships, the Boomers had two more than likely victories (Central
African Republic and South Korea) and two likely losses (the USSR and Yugoslavia) already on the chalkboard. It was vital, then, to defeat Puerto Rico so that a quarter-final match-up with the United States could be avoided.
It did not start off well: Puerto Rico led 17-10 after six minutes of the opening period. Gaze had missed several free-throws and centre Ray Borner was struggling against Puerto Rican star Jose Ortiz. Boomers coach Adrian Hurley then brought Luc Longley and Mark Bradtke off the bench
and the two young studs swung the game Australia’s way. Longley brought down four huge defensive rebounds and Gaze started to hit the big shots from long-range. He would finish with 25 points for the half and Australia went into the rooms with a comfortable 50-36 lead.
In the second half, Puerto Rico coach Aramandito Torres told his players to pick up their defensive work-rate and start feeding Ortiz the ball. His charges heeded the call and the Boomers, in Dr. Hurley’s words, just tried “to hang on”. In the final three minutes, both Gaze and Wayne Carroll hit crucial three-pointers while Longley made two critical baskets in the post. With 30 seconds left and a four-point lead, Bradtke blocked a shot by Puerto Rico bench player Raymond Gause, there was a scramble which led to Gaze diving on the loose ball, drawing a foul and sealing the win from the foul line. As American-based journalists leapt over each other to grab a word with Gaze (who finished with a game-high 33 points), coach Torres said “Australia deserves our respect. It did a helluva job”. Ortiz (described by Hurley as “one of the finest amateur players in the world”) finished with 18 points on 8/13 from the field. The Boomers next match would be against the USSR, who would be smarting after a surprise 92-79 loss to Yugoslavia.
Monday 19th September 1988
Pool A Match: Opals vs. Republic of Korea
Final score: Republic of Korea 91-Opals 55
In their two warm-up games prior to the Olympic tournament, Opals coach Robbie Cadee had stressed to his team the importance of:
- Not allowing their opponents to get open three-point shots
-Blocking out and controlling the boards
-As few turnovers as possible
-Taking the time to get quality shots.
Sadly, only one of those points apparently sunk in (The Opals won the boards 42-18). The effect of over 13,000 Koreans in the Jamsil Arena was overwhelming as their heroes tore the Australians to shreds with a brilliant shooting display. Despite Korea’s Chan-Mi Park hitting a three-pointer in the opening seconds of the game, the Opals led 13-11 after ten minutes. Then Korea got hot, very hot: a 23-0 run in the last five minutes of the first half that gave them a 41-20 lead going into the break. Australia’s spirit was broken and their opponents rammed home their advantage finishing with 59 per cent shooting from the field, including 16/26 from three point range. In reply, the Opals hit only 2/4.
Keum-Jin Lee led all scorers with 19 points (5/8 from three point land), closely followed by Hwa-Soon Kim with 18 points (4/5 from long range). For Australia, Shelley Gorman was the only stand-out, with 11 points and eight rebounds. Two stats clearly stood out: Australia shot 18/59 (31 per cent) from the field and turned the ball over 19 times to Korea’s six. Robbie Cadee spoke for the team:
“We were completely outclassed. It was probably our worst performance internationally. We fell down badly in defence, we tried to slow the game down, but they gave us no chance.”
The Opals would now have to beat both Bulgaria and the Soviet Union (both undefeated against Australia in major international competition) to qualify for the medal rounds. Cadee remained hopeful about his team’s chances: “It’s not over for us yet. We must win our next two games and while there is a ray of sunshine we must work on that.”
Tuesday 20th September 1988
Pool A Match: Boomers vs. USSR
Final score: USSR 91-Boomers 65
The Boomers and the Soviets had gotten to know each other extremely well, having played two six-Test series on our shores over the previous two years. On this occasion, the Soviet Union had an ace up their sleeve: Arvydas Sabonis. The 23 year-old wunderkind, having recently returned from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, was masterful in this encounter. Australia simply had no-one who could match up effectively with the 223cm, 123 kg centre. Sabonis finished the game with 17 points and 20 rebounds. USSR coach Aleksandr Gomelsky said that “They have not seen him before and he was big problem for them.” In combination with Rimas Kurtinaitis who racked up 21 points (including 5/5 from three-point range), the Soviet Union was rarely troubled, taking a 53-35 lead into half-time. Australia turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and was never really in the hunt. Damian Keogh was the only Boomer to score in double figures, finishing with 15 points. Coach Hurley was not overly
disappointed with the defeat, saying that he reckoned “it was a bonus game”. It would not be the last time that Sabonis would haunt the Boomers at an Olympic tournament. Australia’s next task was to prevent another Angola and make sure of their quarter-final place.
Wednesday 21st September 1988
Pool A Match: Boomers vs. Central African Republic
Final score: Boomers 106-Central African Republic 67
Australia’s third game in Pool A pitted them against the landlocked Central African Republic, who had qualified for the Olympics by winning the African Championship in Tunisia the previous December. Tip-off for this game was delayed for close to half an hour after the USSR-Puerto Rico match went into overtime (the USSR eventually winning 93-81). Once the match got underway, Australia moved quickly to a 14-6 lead after five minutes. The Boomers’ opponents had a strange game plan that involved the refusal to play any perimeter defence whatsoever. Andrew Gaze and Boomers captain Phil Smyth were grateful for the opportunity to practice their long shots. Gaze ended the first half with 20 points, while Smyth brought up his 19th point with a jumper on the half-time buzzer to send Australia in with a 57-35 lead.
In the second half, Hurley took the opportunity to give some of his bench players an extended run. Darryl Pearce drew some attention with a couple of nifty passes to Bradtke and Andrew Vlahov that led to easy buckets. The CAR’s gun player was Anicet-Richard Lavodrama, who finished with 30 points and nine rebounds. Gaze again was the Boomers leading scorer with 25 points, but Smyth had his best shooting game of the tournament to date ringing up 24 points on 9/12 shooting (6/8 from three-point range).
Next week, ‘Back in the Day’ will lead you through the rest of Australia’s tilt in Seoul. There’ll be notes in shoes and glory for Hockeyroos. A pentathlete will be juiced and a nation traduced. While there’ll be glory from Spain, from Yugoslavia there’s only pain. That’s all to come next
week in “Back in the Day.”