When it comes to the little bits that make up me, my Australianess trumps my nerdosity. I have committed the cardinal sin that one can commit in geek society, I actively follow, support, and on occasion even play, sport. While most of the people that I interact with on a regular basis roll their eyes and mutter something about 'the sportball being in town', I live and breathe sport during the Olympics.
I am not alone, it seems sometimes that the entirety of the country is mesmerised by Olympic gold. Of all the countries participating in the games this year, Australia (the 52nd-largest country in the world) has the fourth-most participating athletes, with 410 (yes, one in every 50,000 Australians, or one Aussie for each town the size of Mildura, is an olympian this year), and every paper and news report in the country will devote a large percentage of space to covering the minutiae of the athletes and the Games. If we weren't all completely convinced already, here is further proof that the nation is make up, if not entirely, then at least primarily, by nutters.
However, because I have to be different and because I admit to finding the Australian obsession with sport a little bit creepy, I have for the last four olympic games followed a policy of supporting teams from countries with a less ridiculous approach to the games. I do this in a sort of ad-hoc way, because following the results for any country that doesn't wear green and gold is difficult when there's a possibility that an Australian athlete might even think about turning up for training or a press conference at some point in the next hour, but the internet is a wonderful place, so we do our best.
I support countries that have not won an olympic gold medal, based on a number of criteria which are selected randomly from a pool of categories that change each Olympiad based on my flights of fancy, but this year the teams that will have the weight of in-principle Leaflocker support are:
Earning permanent placement in this list by virtue of being our official favourite country here at the brand-spanking new Leaflocker offices, Lesotho! Lesotho has sent a team of 5, including 3 participants in the marathon. Due to the altitude, we imagine that marathon runners from there are pretty respectable, but our special favourite Lesotho competitor is the 50m freestyle swimmer 'M'asempe Theko, whose best swim has a time more than double that of the fastest qualifiers: not bad considering that there is probably not very many olympic-quality swimming facilities in the tiny mountainous country. It's also worth noting that the London 2012 website informs us that marathon runner Tsepo Ramonene (running in only his second marathon) has the same height and weight as Mrs. Owl, the sort of information that you're guaranteed not to get anywhere else that makes the Leaflocker stand out, I know. Lesotho is also sending a taekwondo judge, who is quoted as saying:
"We are a nation proud about sport. Our country is small and, because it's landlocked by South Africa, people don't know about it. It's through sport that people can learn about Lesotho. We have a lovely country that we want the whole world to know about."
Well, the Leaflocker is doing our part in getting the word out, Lesotho. Make us proud.
In the 'impressed in the cricket this year' category, narrowly edging out Papua New Guinea, is the team from Nepal (it seems to be a year for the mountainous countries). Nepal might not have excellent chance, given that all five of their athletes qualified by wild-card or universality place, but we'll be supporting the guys from the country with the two-toothed pennant. Some might doubt Nepal's place on this list, given that they actually won a bronze for taekwondo in Seoul the year before I was born, but since it was an exhibition sport and we like their pluck, they get the nod. We're paying special attention to Pramila Rijal, representing in the 100m. I'd make a joke about there being no flat land in Nepal, but I know they have cricket fields, so a sprint track is not out of the question. C'mon Nepal!
In the 'competes in the Greco-Roman wrestling' category, always my personal favourite, are the Federated States of Micronesia. Keitani Graham is the man to watch, if you can stand to watch Greco-Roman wrestling and can find a TV channel that will broadcast his first-round match. There are also five other competitors from the country, including Manuel Minginfel, who could actually be an actual chance for a medal in the weightlifting. One presumes that with a currency that is essentially made of enormous rocks, weightlifters from Micronesia might be quite formidable.
In the 'we supported them last time' category, it's the six men and women from Cambodia, whose best hope was Ratanakhomy Khom, who made it to the second round of the Judo by virtue of having a bye in the first round before being knocked out by a Mexican with no appreciation of the level of support and investment in Cambodian olympic hopes by the editorial team here at the Leaflocker. It's only logical that a country with a flag this cool can't be far away from an olympic medal.
Well, that's all the countries that we're supporting, but there are also some competitors from Southern Sudan and Netherlands Antilles competing under the Olympic flag who will have the full force of Leaflocker support as well, so go those guys, wave that neutral flag! Tune back in in a couple of weeks and we'll give you all the low-down on how everyone went and hopefully eliminate some of these countries from being eligible to be supported by the Leaflocker next time around.
This is not to say that I won't be tuning in to watch the Australians as well, particularly in the team sports, but I will not live or die by the medal count or the media frenzy. We here at the Leaflocker are taking the time to acknowledge the little countries, those that are participating in the games with little to no chance of winning anything, and the few athletes who carry the hopes and ambitions of their nations on their shoulders. And you know, you should too. There's plenty more teams out there, guys, and if you want, I'll even share mine. My only regret is that Sri Lanka have won medals in the past, so I won't be spending my time shouting "Go Lanka Go" at the TV. Well, I might a little, but you don't get to hear about it.