In case the picture didn't give it away, it's me Debbie again! (I have no idea why my introductions make Andrea frown and start reaching for her hairbrush, must be a nervous tic or something). This time it's an article I wrote forever ago, okay Miss Andrea, years ago, about the Commonwealth Games when they were held in Melbourne.
It is not every day that a sports fan has a world class athletic competition in her backyard. The Commonwealth Games are a quadrennial sporting event, showcasing the best talent within the old British Empire. They were once called the Empire Games, and although the Empire is no more, the Commonwealth still exists, and every four years they gather to pit themselves against each other in sporting endeavours.
Australia had not hosted the games since 1982 when Brisbane was the venue. This year they were in Melbourne, and the city was abuzz with news and visiting athletes and spectators. Your reporter had a list of who she wanted to speak with, and it was going to be a busy time trying to get to them all.
First stop, the all conquering Aussie girls swimming team, including backstroker and team captain Giaan Rooney, late blooming breaststroker, and individual medley swimmer Brooke Hanson, Athens Olympics triple gold medalist freestyle sprinter Jodie Henry, fellow freestyler and current world record holder over 100 metres Libby Lenton, and dual world record breaststroker Liesel Jones.
The big question that had to be asked was where did the improvement come from? Since the Athens Olympics the girls had established themselves as the best team in the world. Libby Lenton and Jodie Henry were sharing the 100 metres world record between each other. Miss Jones had not just broken the world records for the 100 and 200 metre breaststroke at the Commonwealth Games trials, she had smashed them.
All six girls held gold medals from Athens and the Australian women owned the world records for 100 metres relay and the 100 metres medley relay, courtesy of Miss Henry's blistering last 50 metres over the anchor leg. When did it happen? What caused it? The girls shared giggles, blushes and grins.
Giaan Rooney was the first to explain that a team rule was established under former team captain Susie O'Neill, freestyler and butterfly swimmer, multiple Commonwealth and Olympic gold medalist. "We could see ourselves losing events we should win," she said. "If it was felt that you had not done your best, then the team captain could order you to take a spanking from a designated female team member.
"I still remember the spanking Petria [Petria Thomas, freestyler and butterfly swimmer, triple gold medalist from Athens and recently retired] gave me before the medley relay in Athens every time I sit," Miss Rooney recalled with a wince.
"It worked, though," Miss Henry pointed out. "You swam a PB [personal best] in the final and were close enough to the US that Liesel, Petria and I could overhaul them."
"What about the whacking I got when I lost my world record and the semi in Athens?" Miss Lenton interjected.
Her friend Jodie Henry responded that she had certainly deserved the treatment.
There was a giggle from Miss Jones. "Don't tell me that memories of Libby kicking over your knee didn't drive you on in the final, Jodie!"
"Well, memories of your red backside over my knee spurred me on in qualifying for the medley relay final," Miss Hanson said to a furiously blushing Liesel Jones.
Miss Rooney shrugged. "Liesel knew she let herself down badly in her performances in the finals at Athens, and deserved every slap Brooke gave her bare bottom."
I asked if the public could expect a gold rush in the pool.
"Either that or very red bottoms," Miss Rooney assured me with a smile and an ominous look at her world beating troops.
The value of this motivational technique was demonstrated in the very first night of the Commonwealth Games. Libby Lenton and Brooke Hanson each took silver in the 200 metres freestyle and 200 metres individual medley. In the latter race, the Aussies went 1, 2, 3!
A few days later, Miss Lenton won the gold medal in the 100 metres freestyle and Jodie Henry took the silver. Liesel Jones and Miss Lenton picked up another gold each as members of the world record breaking 4 X 100 medley relay team. Giaan Rooney got took second place in the 50 metres backstroke, and I suspect she was turned over winner Sophie Eddington's knee for a sound spanking for her sulky attitude immediately after the race and when accepting her silver medal.
The Golden Girls from the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
Next on the list were 23-year-old brunette Jana Pittman and Tamsyn Lewis, a 28-year-old blonde bombshell. The runners were two of the highest profile athletes on the Australian team, and not always for the right reasons. Miss Pittman was a world champion in the 400 metres hurdles and she was good on the flat too.
Miss Lewis's preferred distance was the 800, but she liked the 400 and was a key part of the relay team. Miss Pittman suffered a major setback before the Athens Olympics. She was a contender for the gold until a knee injury derailed her campaign. She fought back strongly to recover, make the final and finish fifth.
Upset by her own poor performance, Miss Lewis labeled Jana Pittman a 'drama queen' for her very public histrionics during her battle to get her troublesome knee right for the Olympics. Miss Pittman hit back by calling Tamsyn Lewis a 'bikini babe' in reference to a racy swimsuit spread she had done for Australian men's magazine, 'Ralph'.
The feud simmered from that point on until the young women clashed in the qualifying race for the 400 metres at the Commonwealth Games. Miss Pittman had added the flat race to her program, and Miss Lewis had dropped her favoured 800 for the shorter distance. Miss Lewis ran second in that race and Miss Pittman inexplicably came dead last.
It was hoped that now the matter was settled, the girls would drop their rivalry and concentrate on their own performances and helping their team win the 4 X 400 relay. It was not to be.
During a radio interview after the qualifying run, Miss Lewis referred to Miss Pittman as a 'bitch' and hostilities recommenced. The girls had buried the hatchet soon afterwards, but no one could really say what had prompted two strong willed individuals to simply put aside their differences with no more than a whimper.
The two athletes exchanged looks and a becoming blush suffused Tamsyn Lewis's fair cheeks when they were asked why they were no longer fighting. It was left to Jana Pittman to answer. "They sent Debbie Flintoff-King [Seoul 1988 400 metres hurdles gold medalist, wife of Miss Pittman's former coach Phil King and also a former mentor to the young hurdler] and Cathy Freeman [Sydney 2000 400 metres gold medalist] to 'talk' to us."
Miss Lewis scoffed and muttered something under her breath. Miss Pittman ignored the bubbly blonde and picked up the thread of the story. "They told us about how important it was that we got along because we were teammates in the relay."
"They ordered us to kiss and make up," Miss Lewis broke in. "Ordered! For God's sake, we're grown women, not little kids."
"I have to admit I'm with you there. I didn't like it either," Miss Pittman confessed. "Even as I told Debbie - er, Mrs Flintoff- King," she quickly amended her form of address, "that I wouldn't kiss Tam, I knew my butt was in trouble."
"I'd actually never seen Cathy get angry before." Miss Lewis related. "She's always so relaxed and smiling."
Miss Pittman took a deep breath and said, "I knew what was going to happen next, it's happened often enough. Mrs Flintoff-King took my wrist and hauled me over her knee, my pants came down and the next thing I knew I was getting an absolute barn burner of a spanking."
"I couldn't believe it," Miss Lewis said in a tone that implied she was still incredulous about what had happened. "I'd never been spanked before in my life, and Cathy is way stronger than you'd think. She dragged me over her knee, whisked my trakky daks down and really started to lay into my backside."
"By the end of it," Miss Pittman admitted with a blush, "both of our bottoms were glowing and we were bawling. Mrs Flintoff-King and Miss Freeman hugged us and then ordered us to hug each other and kiss and make up, which we did."
"Then we had to stand in the corner, hands on head while they laid down team rules to us," Miss Lewis finished with a sigh.
It appeared that the girls still were not exactly friends, but they would behave professionally and help the team in trying to win more medals for Australia.
Jana Pittman may have individual bragging rights there. On the track she lived up to the hype by easily winning gold in the 400 metre hurdles. Tamsyn Lewis was not so lucky, being run out of the 400 metres in the semi final. And in the 4x400 metre relay, which featured both Miss Lewis and Miss Pittman, the Aussie team took gold, but in a very controversial way. The British team, who crossed the line first, were disqualified after Tamsyn Lewis complained about an obscure rules violation by one of the Englishwomen.
Just as a matter of interest, Miss Lewis and Miss Pittman remained in the news for weeks after the competition ended. Jana being Jana, she wrote a letter to the English team offering her gold medal, as she did not feel she deserved it and distanced herself from Tamsyn's actions in protesting.
Miss Lewis's response has been that she does not understand anything about why Miss Pittman does what she does and that she is going back to the 800 and wants nothing to do with her ever again. It looks as if appearances were right on the money that the girls would work together for the sake of the team, but were not friends. Perhaps they are due for another visit from Mrs Flintoff-King and Miss Freeman.
Tamsyn Lewis showing a bit of cheek.
The statuesque Jana Pittman.
Jana's mother figure, Debbie Flintoff-King.
Australia's track golden girl; Cathy Freeman.
The Meares sisters, Kerrie and Anna, are big news in the world of track cycling. Kerrie had taken up the sport first and was followed by younger sister Anna. Anna is the reigning Olympic champion in the 500 metre time trial. This is one the events at which Kerrie also excels.
Both sisters had gone head to head in the Australian titles in the sprint to qualify for the Games. They may be sisters, but once they get on the track sisterly love goes out the window, and they'll do whatever it takes to cross the line first.
Their mother was also present during the interview. "Cycling is not a contact sport," said Marilyn Meares through pursed lips, "but Anna and Kerrie do their best to make it that way."
Kerrie shrugged. "I want to win; so does Anna. If I hook her, tough."
Anna looked at her older sister and vowed, "You're gonna pay for that on the track. Hook me, as if!"
"The thing is," an unperturbed Mrs Meares continued, "if they turn their cycling into a contact sport then I introduce them to a contact sport of my own ..." She paused and the siblings looked uncomfortable, "... spanking."
"Mum really blistered you after the trials," Anna crowed at Kerrie.
"Oh, really," Kerrie said coolly. "I think you yelled loudest when Mum put the brush to you that night."
"Girls, girls," Mrs Meares placated her daughters, "I don't think our guest from the media really wants to see me bare your bottoms and spank you here and now, which is what I will do if you keep on with this silly bickering. You see," she explained, "when Kerrie and Anna get ultra competitive on the track, they tend to bump and try to hook each other's wheels to put the other off the pace. It's dangerous, and it can get you disqualified."
The girls opened their mouths to protest.
"Yes, I have heard it before, girls. You're professionals and you know what you're doing," the woman said wearily to her daughters. "You have both been doing this long enough to know that crashes can occur on the track, and the results are not at all pretty. I am sure that you'd both rather a sore bottom than broken bones."
As I left the mother and her daughters, I hoped the Meares sisters behaved for the duration of the Games. It would not be fun trying to sit on a bike saddle after an encounter with the Meares family hairbrush. In the end, the sisters covered themselves in glory in the 500 metres time trial. Kerrie got the bronze, and sister Anna helped herself to gold in a Games record time.
The Meares sisters at a meet.
Meanwhile, pole vaulters Tatiana Grigorieva and her fifteen-year-old niece Vicky Parnov were interviewed over coffee. Ms Grigorieva is a high profile, glamourous Russian born athlete who is most famous for her unexpected silver medal in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Injuries and a loss of form saw her unfortunately miss out on the Athens games, but she is back and vaulting well for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Unexpectedly joining her on the team is her niece Vicky. Miss Parnov is a bit of a teenage athletics sensation, and the second youngest athlete on the Australian team.
Sipping her hot chocolate, Vicky shyly admitted that she was on the team for "experience and fun." Ms Grigorieva frowned and said sternly in her delightfully accented English: "More experience, less fun, young lady!"
Despite Ms Grigorieva's warnings, a Commonwealth Games village is an exciting place for a fifteen-year-old girl and Ms Grigorieva knew that temptations would be placed in front of her niece. She announced that Vicky would be concentrating on her vaulting, and not partying or trying to pick up 'cute' male athletes from other nations.
'Aunt Tatiana' was there to make sure that would be the case even if it meant that she had to take Vicky under her wing and over her knee. The cheeky smile that Vicky wore behind her aunt's back said that her bottom may be subject to some warmings over her aunt's knee and under her firm palm.
Tatiana Grigorieva picked up a silver medal in the pole vault - fellow Australian Kim Howe won the gold. Tatiana's niece Vicky Parnov came sixth in the final, but she is only 15 and this was a good introduction for her to serious international competition.
Pole vaulting glamour girl, Tatiana Grigorieva.
Like aunt, like niece, Vicky Parnov.
Even Big Sisters Get Spanked Sometimes
Divers Loudy Tourky and Melissa Wu were waiting for me at the Aquatic Centre. Melissa is only 13 years old and tiny with it. She is one of the youngest Australian competitors ever, and obviously excited to have made the team and get the chance to represent her country. Miss Tourky, despite being in her mid 20s, is a small girl, and not that much bigger than her pubescent teammate.
It is Loudy Tourky who has been chosen, as much by the girl as team officials, to take on the mentoring 'big sister' role for young Melissa Wu. Miss Tourky has been competing at the top level for more than a decade, and as such knew that her young teammate had a lot to learn and would try not to let it overwhelm her at this her first big competition.
Miss Tourky owns an Olympic silver and bronze medal, and teammate Chantelle Newbery won gold at the Athens Olympics in the 10 metre platform. "I'm the big sister," Miss Tourky explained of her relationship with Melissa, "and Chantelle is the Mum."
Melissa giggled at the thought of the attractive 28-year-old diver being her 'mother.'
"That's pretty much how it's always been with us," Miss Tourky continued. "Even though Chantelle is not that much older than me, she's always been the boss. If I get out of line ,it's Chantelle that pulls me back in."
Melissa looked up and asked, "How does she do that, Loudy?"
Miss Tourky turned to the young girl and said, "She spanks my bottom, that's how. And if you don't want to go over Chantelle's knee for a good old fashioned spanking you'll make sure you behave yourself, young lady."
Melissa's shocked open mouthed reaction told me that she may not win any gold medals for diving at this Games, but she would definitely be in the running for one in good behaviour.
Loudy Tourky won gold in the 10 metre platform individual, and with partner Chantelle Newbery they took the gold medal in the synchronised diving off the 10 metre platform. Tiny teen tyro Melissa Wu got a silver medal with her partner Alex Croak, which is a fantastic result for a young girl in her first major competition.
The tiny Loudy Tourky.
The even tinier Michelle Wu in action.
Chantelle Newbery shows off her gold medal.
I came away from the village knowing that Australia's fortunes in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games were in good hands and over the right knees.
Originally published in Bared Affair, Issue 4.04