OLYMPIC GAMES ATLANTA 1996
My first Olympics as a team member was Atlanta 1996. I was initially appointed as team doctor and then closer to the Games I was asked if I would also fill the role as Assistant Team Manager to my good friend Margaret Mahoney. It certainly made for a busy time both at our pre-Olympic camp in North Carolina and then once we got to the village. The camp was complicated by the announcement of a positive drug test for Dean Capobianco who was in camp with us so that caused all sorts of problems. Eventually Dean was able to compete but it was a stressful time.
The highlights for me were:
Marching in my first Opening Ceremony even if we had to wear stupid hats
Seeing Muhammad Ali appear to light the flame at the Opening Ceremony still gives me goose bumps when I think about it.
Cathy Freeman’s magnificent run to take silver behind Perec in the 400m final. She actually ran faster in Atlanta than she did in Sydney.
Louise McPaul’s surprise silver in the women’s javelin was a personal highight. Lou was in a lot of pain with a low back problem and when she came out to warm up before the qualifying she was unable to throw. I injected her lower back with local anaesthetic (all quite legal) and she was able to throw and qualify. We did the same for the final and she won silver.
OLYMPIC GAMES SYDNEY 2000
2000 was a pretty exciting year. I had been appointed Team Manager for the Athletics team, the largest component of the Australian Olympic team. We spent a couple of years planning, meeting every week at Athletics Australia headquarters in Melbourne. We had a great planning team. Chris (Rab) Wardlaw was Head Coach and it was a great pleasure working with Rab over those couple of years. The AA High Performance Manager was Lawrie Woodman and come Games time Lawrie doubled up as one of my Assistant Managers looking after the coaches. Brian Roe from AA was incredibly knowledgeable and played a major role in the planning for Sydney 2000.
One of the nice things about being on an Australian Olympic team as an official is that you are regarded by the Australian Olympic Committee as an “Olympian” and invited to all the Olympic functions. As Olympians, we were all invited to run a leg of the torch relay which was a huge thrill for me and my family.
The Brukners July 2000
The Australian athletics team consisted of 82 athletes and approximately 30 support staff (coaches, medical, admin). I was fortunate to have three fantastic assistant managers who made my job so much easier. They were Geoff Rowe, Carol Grant and Lawrie Woodman. We spent the three weeks prior to the Games at a training camp in Nudgee, Brisbane, and had a couple of warm up meets at the Brisbane Athletics stadium. I arranged for a number of prominent sportspeople to come and join us for a meal so we had visits from Leigh Matthews, John Eales, John Buchanan and Raelene Boyle among others.
Then it was down to Sydney where we had an induction ceremony and the team blazers were handed out by John Landy. Mark Seymour from Hunters and Collectors joined us for the day and we sang a bastardised version of the Holy Grail as our team song.
Mark Seymour and friends
The Australian athletics team Sydney 2000
We have a tradition in the Australian athletics team that we have a team dinner two nights before the start of the athletics competition. The Sydney dinner was a greet night attended by John Howard and his wife. The PM actually made a really good speech.
Assistant managers Geoff Rowe and Carol Grant with the PM and myself at the dinner
The Opening Ceremony was a fantastic night and we were very proud when one of our team members Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame
OPSMC staff members at the Sydney Opening Ceremony
The village was well organised but the rooms were pretty small! Didn’t have much time to see the family, but they came and had a look around the village.
Athletics highlights were of course Cathy’s gold on what was possible the greatest night of athletics ever. I had the task of looking after Cathy for the few hours after the race taking her through the media, up to Bruce for an interview, down to meet her family, the medal ceremony, then down to drug testing.
The pressure she was under leading up to that race was incredible. I suspect no-one in the history of the Olympics has been under that sort of pressure and all she could say afterwards was “what a relief”.
Other highlights were:
Jumping Jai Taurima’s silver in the long jump
Tatiana’s silver in the women’s pole vault “show me the money”
The fabulous Closing ceremony
The street parade through Sydney the next day
While there are always great moments in the Olympics there are also very sad moments when athletes do not live up to their high expectations
The saddest moment of all was when walker Jane Saville was disqualified as she was about to make a triumphant entry into the stadium leading the women’s walk. I was truly at a loss for words to try and console her.
Overall it was a fabulous Olympics definitely “the best ever” Australia as the host nation performed very well finishing with 16 gold and a total of 58 medals to finish 4th behind USA, Russia and China in the unofficial medals tally. Not bad for a nation of 20 million!