CAITLIN BASSETT: Sam Fricker’s touching videos show the heartbreak of missing out on Olympic selection

Caitlin Bassett
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Sam Fricker shared his disappointment over not being selected online.
Sam Fricker shared his disappointment over not being selected online. Credit: Sam Fricker/Instagram

We all remember Australia’s great Olympic moments from Ian Thorpe’s dominance in the pool to Cathy Freeman’s breakthrough Sydney 2000 gold medal but spare a thought for those who never get their shot at a Games and often fall painfully short.

The heart breaking reality of sport is that someone has to lose out at selection time and at the elite level, it can be both beautiful and brutal.

How do you recover? For some, their careers can end with a less-than fairytale ending to years of blood, sweat and sacrifice.

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For some, it will simply become a chapter in life which will be looked back at in time, a catalyst to learn and grow from.

I was at the start of my international career when I missed out on selection for the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in Delhi.

I remember sitting in the gold room at the Australian Institute of Sport after a gruelling week of trials listening to names of the selected athletes being called out. With only a handful of caps to my name I wasn’t expecting to make the team but it still felt like a gut punch when I looked around the room at the ones who had made it.

Before going to the airport you have the opportunity to get feedback on why you didn’t make it — I was told “it’s just not your time yet”.

Sitting in the lounge while teammates excitedly talked and congratulated one another, I called Mum and Dad to break the news and tell them not to bother buying tickets.

Yesterday, Australian diver Sam Fricker posted a video on Instagram flying home after not being selected in the Olympic team and a host of feelings flooded back.

It’s a mixture of disappointment, shame and frustration — something that you have prepared and sacrificed so much for remaining out of grasp.

You can’t help but compare yourself to the ones who did make it and look back on and over-analyse every small mistake you might have made along the way.

The hardest part is not being able to escape the noise. The Games are the world’s biggest event and headline every bulletin on TV and radio and have a monopoly on column inches.

Your social media will be flooded with posts from teammates who are sharing their once in a lifetime experience. Especially in a team sport, these are people you love, but it’s easy to fall into resentment. It’s impossible to escape.

I have a huge amount of respect for those athletes who are selected as reserves. They do all the hard work in the lead up to be on standby if someone else gets injured.

It’s a unique role where you are part of the team, but not at the same time. Reserves will travel to Paris but will not stay in the athlete’s village with the rest of the team or have the full experience. Once the competition starts they will no longer be required and have to leave. It’s an internal tug of war between wanting the best for your mates while also secretly wishing that someone would go down, and then feeling guilty for having those thoughts.

Hockey, soccer and rugby squads — among other team sports — all have to be trimmed down.

Six of our hockey players will miss out out.

We are seeing more of these heartbreak stories at the Australian Swimming Trials, where athletes are fighting against friends and even family members for a spot on the plane to Paris.

Athletes can contest non-selection at a significant personal cost, in recent weeks Athletics Australia has been criticised for its selection process after marathon runner Lisa Weightman was forced to drop her appeal. Despite qualifying third fastest for the event Weightman was overlooked for what would be her record-breaking fifth Olympics.

My non-selection was the spark I needed to go back and work harder on things I’d been told weren’t quite at the standard. I went home, trained like never before, and had my named called out to head to the World Cup the following year.

So spare a thought for those that miss out. Selection is an imperfect science and sometimes, it simply isn’t fair.

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