The lopsided Ashes of Olympic track cycling


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Been crunching some numbers to compare the respective track programs of Australia and Great Britain since the 2012 London Olympics Games. The results quite glaringly show what we already know. One nation is outstandingly adept at peaking its athletes for the biggest show on the planet every four years. The other is Australia.

The chart below shows each nation’s results at both the London and Rio Olympic Games (with two events still to be decided on the track in Rio – we’ll update things when they’re finished too). Importantly, it also shows their performances in all 10 Olympic track events at the four UCI World Track Championships in between.

Aus vs GB medals
As the Brits peak, the Aussies fall away. Sharply.

Some of the more interesting observations include:

  • In the UCI Track World Championships (Olympic events) between 2013 and 2016 Great Britain won 19 medals of which 7 were gold. At the same time Australia also won 19 medals of which 6 were gold. In other words, an almost identical return.
  • Collectively at the 2012 & 2016 Olympic Games, Great Britain has so far won 15 medals of which a pretty staggering 11 are gold. At the same time Australia won 7 medals of which just 1 has been gold. In other words, the Brits have kicked our heads in.
  • Perhaps most illuminating of all is that Great Britain’s worst return during the 2012-2016 period came at the 2015 Worlds in Paris – the exact same event as Australia’s best return, some 19 months out from Rio. Since then the Brits have gone to a completely new level while the Aussies appear to have, at best, plateaued.
  • Of the ten Olympic track cycling events, Australia only improved on its 2012 result in one event, the women’s sprint with Anna Meares. The Men’s Team Pursuit and Team Sprint equalled their results from London. Everyone else went backwards, in some cases quite alarmingly.

People can say what they want at Cycling Australia HQ. But over a full four-year cycle (and if we go back to the disastrous Olympics in Beijing it would look even worse!) the raw numbers don’t lie. Something isn’t right. Something needs to change. Otherwise we’ll no doubt be saying the exact same things in Tokyo in 2020 – just with fewer sponsors because the bulk of Australians who only care about cycling during the Olympics will start giving even less of a toss about our great sport.


3 thoughts on “The lopsided Ashes of Olympic track cycling

  1. I think it is also partly the olympic effect too Pete. Australia put heaps of cash into sport pre-2000, and we got our best ever medal haul in 2000. The effect carried over to 2004. But the drying up of cash faded such that 2008 was a poor result. UK still in the after glow of 2012. So will be interesting to see how it goes in 2020.
    However, we do seem to be slashing funding to all sports while the UK fund theirs through the lottery. Maybe that is the model we should have here.

    Also interesting is that UK seem to target a few sports. Best bang for buck I suppose you’d call it. Track cycling seemed to be one of the sports – and it just happens that it was one we were good at.


  2. It’s funny isn’t it Pete. Your analysis shows that team GB do nothing between Olympics – and then smash everyone at the Olympics. The conclusion you come to is that they are peaking better. The rest of the world are a bit more suspicious.

    Sort of a bit like your article on Lizzie Armistead. We assume she is clean….but if she was Russian….we’d assume she was doping. Are we using the same bias on Team GB…..we assume clean. Is it really so? just saying.

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