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Pampered pros have no place in an event meant to reward the battler

Date

Jon Tuxworth

Professional sports such as tennis, in which athletes like Roger Federer can make a decent living, should not be included in the Olympics, says Jon Tuxworth.

Professional sports such as tennis, in which athletes like Roger Federer can make a decent living, should not be included in the Olympics, says Jon Tuxworth. Photo: Teagan Glenane

Roger Federer has won more than $3.6 million this year alone. Swimmer Alicia Coutts cleans out the kitty litter of homeless cats just to get by.

The Olympics were originally designed to be a vehicle for amateur sports and athletes to shine. A chance for the unsung heroes to get their due plaudits on the big stage. But the continued introduction of sports whose athletes are very highly paid is tearing away at the ideologies the world's biggest event was built upon.

Every morning Alicia Coutts rises with the sparrows for training, before heading off to work at Canberra's RSPCA.

She doesn't stay in glitzy hotels, she doesn't buy flash jewellery and she doesn't rub shoulders with A-list celebrities. The 24-year-old can only dream of making a great living out of her sport like Federer, Lionel Messi or LeBron James.

And that's why battlers like her will always hold their Olympic accomplishments closer to their hearts.

In my opinion professional sports like tennis, men's soccer and golf (which will make its debut in 2016) shouldn't be in the Olympics.

In tennis and golf they have four majors every year which players can work towards. For a rower or a gymnast, their only real chance to get any recognition arrives every four years.

The Olympics were a strictly amateur event until the 1990s. For safety reasons, wrestling and boxing are the only sports which still prohibit professional athletes from competing.

Last week I caught up with the Australia's men's volleyball team at Canberra Airport after it booked an Olympic berth at a qualifying tournament in Tokyo.

The joy and excitement on their faces was palpable, particularly given they were the lowest-ranked team in Japan and were given no hope. They were greeted by the ear-piercing drone of their supporters' vuvuzelas, but I'm tipping the annoying South African instrument has never sounded sweeter.

Once they hit the Heathrow tarmac they'll be bracing for the experience of their lives. For someone like Rafael Nadal, it won't be much more than another stamp on his passport.

When he retires what achievement will he cherish most?

His record seventh French Open title earlier this month, or his gold medal in Beijing won against a substandard field?

The last few weeks sports reporters on this paper have kept a close eye on the selection drama surrounding Canberra sprinter Melissa Breen.

A few weeks ago in Japan she fell just 0.002 seconds short of the 100m A-qualifier and endured an agonising six-week wait before getting the nod this week from Athletics Australia.

We've felt the anguish and the helplessness she's endured as she braced to see whether she could pack her bags for London.

It's stories like Breen's, with plenty of hardship, blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice, that the Olympics are all about.

The Olympic creed states: ''The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.'' Including pampered superstars who fly in on their private jets and come along for the ride is hypocrisy at its worst.

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