When it comes to the Commonwealth and Olympic Games not only does it produce magic moments and champions – it produces many a cult hero.
The people who come out of nowhere to wow the crowds with the amazing, weird and wonderful talents and quirks to develop a cult following no matter the sport.
They didn’t even need to win a medal, they just won our hearts instead.
The Ladbrokes Blog pays tribute to those Cult Classic athletes to represent (or participate) in Australia over the years.
“Jumping” Jai Taurima
One of the most memorable Silver Medals from the Sydney Olympics, “Jumping” Jai Taurima became an instant Australian Cult Hero overnight.
With his slicked back long hair, cool sunglasses and his strict diet of a pack of ciggies a day “Jumping” Jai won our hearts on what was a memorable night at Stadium Australia.
The VRC even saw fit to honour Jumping Jai by having him parachute into Flemington Racecourse during the pre-race entertainment at the 2000 Melbourne Cup. (Oh, and some woman by the name of Cathy Freeman won gold in the 400 meters sprint that night as well.)
Originally from Russia and competing as a hurdler, Grigorieva migrated to Australia in 1997 and took up pole vaulting.
On that famous night at the Sydney 2000 Olympics featuring Cathy and Jumping Jai, Grigorieva came into the spotlight by winning silver in the pole vaulting.
She would also go on to win Gold for Australia in the pole vaulting at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
After retirement, Grigorieva would also feature on TV shows such as Dancing With The Stars and as “Olympia” in the late 2000’s reboot of Gladiators.
Legend has it that when Tatiana won the Silver in Sydney her Mother was rumoured to have said: “She’d rather she win a Bronze for Russia”.
With his strict diet of steak, chips, KFC and coca-cola cyclist Ryan Bayley went on to win two gold medals for Australia at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Giving hope to lovers of the Colonel everywhere, Bayley was one of the standouts from Athens.
While most may struggle to even walk after tucking into a three-piece-feed or an Ultimate Burger Meal from Dirty Bird, Bayley’s amazing metabolism was able to let him just burn the excess calories on the bike…and win gold.
What a man! His profile from the Cycling News website in 2003 speaks for itself…
Ryan Bayley Interview – Cycling News 2003
Who is Cara Honeychurch you ask?
She’s the only Australian to win a Gold Medal in Ten-Pin-Bowling at the Commonwealth Games!
That’s right, for the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, ten-pin bowling was a sport and the Aussies won Gold! (It was also the only year Cricket was part of the games)
Honeychurch is a legend in the ten-pin bowling scene and was one of the few Aussies that was able to turn professional and go on to win some serious prize money during her coveted career.
Another notable famous ten-pin bowler is “Baby” John Burgess, he never won a gold medal but he’s got a Logie or two.
Maxine Nable (Silver) and Cara Honeychurch (Gold) Bringing it home for Australia in Ten-Pin Bowling.
Eric “The Eel” Moussambani
While not Australian, we’re willing to adopt Eric the Eel as an Aussie Cult Classic.
Gaining entry to the Sydney 2000 Olympics without meeting the minimum qualifications through a wildcard draw to encourage developing nations to participate in the games, enter Eric the Eel from the tiny African nation of Equatorial Guinea.
In what would be the most memorable swimming heat of all time, two of Eric the Eel’s opponents had been disqualified for making false starts.
He would be the only one to swim in the heat, only thing was prior to the Sydney Olympics he hadn’t yet seen a 50-meter pool, in fact, he took up swimming eight months prior to the games and trained in a 21-meter hotel swimming pool and a lake.
His personal best and Equatorial Guinean record of 1:52:73 was captured perfectly on The Dream with Roy and HG during the games.
One of the unexpected Aussie medals from the Sydney 2000 games – Aussie Lauren Burns took home the gold in the women’s under 49kg class taekwondo.
The daughter of pop star Ronnie Burns (not the former Geelong/Adelaide footballer) Burns was given the order of Australia medal on Australia day 2001.
In 2003 Burns Gold Medal was stolen, only be recovered after a few days.
Probably a good move, especially given the sport it was won in.
Forsyth first came to the national spotlight winning a Bronze medal at the 1992 Barcellona Olympics in High Jump.
He would go on to win gold at the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games in Canada and would always be a good chance for a medal come Olympics/Comm Games time.
Forsyth’s last Olympics would be in Sydney where he failed to qualify for the final.
It was rumoured when retiring he changed his name to Chad Kroger and became the lead singer of Nickelback.
Has anyone ever seen Tim Forsyth or Chad Kroger in the same room?
When you think of Australian Table-Tennis only one name comes to mind: Miao Miao.
She’s represented us in four Olympic games and at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
Known for her skills as a right-handed, fast attack shakehand player Miao Miao has kept Aussie hopes alive in Ping Pong.
Miao also can speak three languages – Chinese, English and Polish as well when many of us struggle with English.
What Don Bradman is to Cricket, Rob Parrella is to Lawn Bowls.
A regular feature of the Australian Lawn Bowls team at the Commonwealth Games, Parrella was able to bring home the gold for Australia at the 1990 Auckland Games.
Parrella was also a household name thanks to the ABC Lawn Bowls show “Jack High”.
In 2006, “The Chaser’s War On Everything” paid tribute to Parrella with a skit of his tell-all story “Bowls and All”
Superheavyweight Weightlifter Dean Lukin won gold for Australia at the 1982 and 86 Commonwealth Games along with Gold at the 1984 LA Olympics.
He currently remains Australia’s only gold medalist in the sport.
In the late 90’s Lukin went on a diet and lost a fair amount of the weight that won him the medals at the games claiming his waistline was now the size of his upper thighs that got Lukin the medal.
His moustache might have given him cult status as of Monday night but Evan O’Hanlon is a five-time, multiple gold medal-winning Paralympic champion.
The man is not only a cult hero but an Australian sports hero up there with the very best.
When you win a 100 meters sprint in the fashion O’Hanlon did, along with whipping the Carrara crowd into a frenzy, you can do whatever you want with the facial hair.