Monday, 20 August 2012

The QT Hotel in Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast: a weekend of romance with a hacking cough

I flew to the Gold Coast last weekend for the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference at the QT Hotel in Surfers Paradise. I intend to write more about the conference on my Wordpress blog, which is dedicated to my writing ambitions (sadly, there's not a lot of action on that blog).

In the meantime, here are some pics of the amazing conference venue, the QT Hotel, and some nice shots of a benign beach - these are not the challenging conditions I've come to know and respect on the Gold Coast, where a strong current usually restricts my swim to the shallows. 

I swam on Sunday morning and it was calm, flat and clear. I'm not a huge fan of Surfers and my preference is to stay away from the sleazy, run-down town centre up the road at Broadbeach or even down the road at Burleigh Heads. But if you have to stay at Surfers, the QT is the place. It's one of the coast's older hotel's that's undergone a stylish refurbishment that's fun and funky. Enjoy the pics.

PS: I had a hacking cough all weekend. No fun. 

Beautiful weather in Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise: the beach is the best thing about it. The QT is the second-best thing; excellent accommodation and fantastic conference food!

Lobby at the QT in Surfers Paradise

QT Hotel, Surfers Paradise

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Post London Olympic Games syndrome: my top 10 London Olympic Games 2012 highlights

Since Friday, it's been blowing a gale here in Sydney. It's typical this time of year when the August winds tear through town, determined to rip off a few roofs and cause general mayhem.

On Friday night, just as we were about to tune into the Olympics coverage at 5.30pm, our suburb had a power blackout. The Hiss and I were devastated. We are addicted to the Olympics so it felt like cold turkey.

Then Spanner came to the rescue. He just happened to have a generator under the house.

I take the piss out of Spanner constantly in my blog but on Friday night I had to give credit where it was due. We were the only house in the street sucking the grid for three-and-a-half hours. The Hiss and I got our Olympics fix, Spanner had a hot shower and I made spaghetti bolognaise (we have a gas stove top) and stewed apples.

Outside, the streetlights were off and feeble candlight wavered from a few apartment windows. 

Now it's Sunday night and I'm sick as a dog (that's a whole other unglamorous story that involved freezing my boot-ay off in a desolate backyard in Woy Woy).

The wind is still howling down under and the Olympic Games are coming to an end in London. So sad. The Hiss and I will suffer from Post London Olympic Games syndrome. It'll take a couple of weeks to recover and I'm determined to ban bad reality TV in our house.

Here are my Top Ten London Olympic Games 2012 highlights in no particular order:

1. The women's marathon run. I thought the three Kenyans had it in the bag but Ethiopian Tiki Gelana showed incredible stamina (gold), as did the Russian Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova (bronze) who emerged from seemingly nowhere to challenge Kenyan Priscah Jeptoo (silver).

2. The look on Moh Farah's face as he grabbed gold for Great Britain in the 5000m track and field run, having claimed the 10,000m a week earlier.

3. The final of the women's 100m hurdles when Australian Sally Pearson pipped the defending champion Dawn Harper, from the USA, by 0.02 seconds to break the Olympic record in a time of 12.35. At first no one was sure who won the race, so close together were the two women over the line. When the scoreboard showed Pearson's name, she screamed and fell to the ground. When she rose to her feet, a gracious Harper gave her a hug. How good is that?

4. I stayed up late to watch the women's 10 kilometre swim, which was fought out in the muddy Serpentine in London's Hyde Park. Hungary's Eva Risztov led for most of the way around a course that gave nothing back to the swimmers - it wasn't salty (no buoyancy) nor tidal (no current) or clear (dense, murky and thick). It looked like the Hungarian could not be beaten, as she put a fair distance between herself and the three other swimmers in the lead pack - USA's Hayley Anderson, Italy's Martina Grimaldi and Great Britain's Keri-anne Payne. However, as she raced for the finish line she was challenged by the Italian and then the American, who hit the touch pad suspended at the finish a second later. But the win was all Risztov's, who emerged from the sludge looking like she'd just completed a few casual laps of the local pool.

5. Sailing. Come on Aussie come on come on! Australia didn't have much to crow about at this Olympics but our sailors quiet achievements in Weymouth, away from the swimmers shenanigans at the aquatic centre in London - were finally acknowledged. Tom Slingsby was first up with our first individual gold medal in the laser class; next came the 49er crew of Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen followed by Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page in the men's 470s. Our girls got silver in the match racing final, with Spain taking the gold. Now Australia is officially a nation of sailors, not swimmers. Ahoy me hearties! Pirates/sailors = same diff!

6. LIVING LEGEND USAIN BOLT. What's not to like about the charming Jamaican who went to the London Olympics  looking to become a living legend. He's now being compared to Mohamad Ali. Nothing can stop him. Not even the might of the US 4x100 men's relay team. Bolt is a 6'5" Jamaican powerhouse with superstar, solid-gold charisma. He killed it in the 100m and 200m sprints, and then brought it home for his country in a world-record time of 36.84 in the 4x100 men's relay - with the assistance of teammates Yohan Blake, Nesta Carter and Michael Frater. God bless the big man.   

7. The rhythmic gymnastics had it all - looks, double joints and loads of bling. The routines were sensational, with the Russians demonstrating their amazing talent with the ball, ribbon, clubs and hoop. Their balletic routines involved flinging the apparatus miles into the air and then performing a triple-jointed-backwards-quadruple-triple-flip-and-scissor thingy before landing gracefully to catch the apparatus - either on the tip of a toe or behind the neck! It was mind-boggling. And their costumes were worthy of a separate awards category - they sparkled and glittered with more bling than Liberace's dinner suit. The gold medal went to the brilliant Evgeniya Kanaeva of Russia for the All-Around Rhythmic Gymnastics final.

8. Jessica Ennis. Beautiful and powerful, Ennis held it together for Great Britain to win gold in the women's heptathlon. Watch out Sally - Ennis says she's thinking about moving into hurdles for the Olympics in Rio in 2016.

9. Michael Phelps. The big American scored gold in the pool for the 22nd time to seal his status as the world's greatest athlete. In London he managed gold in 100m butterfly, gold in men's 4x100 medley, gold in men's 200 IM, gold in men's 4x200 freestyle relay.

10. Runner 2079 in the men's marathon. Marial Guor has spent a lot of his life running away from death and despair. He endured slavery and torture in his homecountry of Sudan and fled to the USA in the late 1990s. He is in the men's marathon as I write, today running for the joy of it. He was able to enter as an Independent Olympic Athlete because he didn't qualify for the US team but felt that he couldn't run for Sudan. GO MARIAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Mr August chills out, plus a reference to Olympic silver medallist Yohan Blake's $500,000 watch

Mr August is so cute but don't be fooled by the soft, downy facade .

With legs like that, I reckon he could pose a threat to Olympic legends Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. Fortunately, for them, he prefers a more relaxed pace. If the Olympic powers that be recognise Greco Roman wrestling, synchronised swimming and shooting as legitimate sports worthy of inclusion in the games then why not introduce the 200m stroll?

Whatever; he's still a winner, baby. That's no lie. 

Speaking of Yohan Blake, I just heard that the Olympic silver medallist's watch cost a cool $500,000.

That much money could feed a village in Jamaica for a couple of years. 

Hopefully Yohan's already giving back to his people, and the watch is just a bit of bling that can be melted down in the future - if necessary.

On that serious note, I'd like to introduce the Man of the Month:


Sunday, 5 August 2012

It's not about having fun, it's about winning: why Leisel Jones let Australia, and herself, down

I'm relieved this is the last we'll be seeing of Leisel Jones at the Olympics - ever. 

It's been frustrating enough to watch most of the Australian team having a dog of a games. 

Then, to add salt to the wound, Jones, who's already got a pocketful of medals from her other Olympic expeditions, pops up in London like a gopher and chirps: "I'm having so much fun."

And she doesn't just say it once. After every swimming event and during every interview, the blonder-than-blonde breaststroker, claims this games is all about FUN, FUN, FUN. 

The sycophantic Australian media responds with: "Leisel's such a great girl. She's got such a great attitude, isn't she an inspiration?"*

My answer to that is: Maybe Jones was an inspiration when she won silver in Sydney, bronze in Athens and gold in Beijing. But in Old Blighty she's only managed fifth place in the 100m breaststroke final.

She's more of a downer than an upper.

After finishing the 100m breaststroke final, dripping with fake ebulliance, Jones said she was happy to make the finals and "pleased" with fifth place. 

What the? 

If you're reading this Leisel (haha), for those of us back here in Australia who have surely contributed something fiscal and emotional to your Olympic career, that sounds rather lame. Surely, you can't be satisfied with fifth? I think you're lying.

When Michael Phelps finished fourth in the 400 meter IM he pulled his finger out BIG TIME and showed the world he had unfinished business. He went on to win four gold and two silver medals. He had a point to prove and was determined to go out with a bang, not a whimper. 

Leisel Jones went in to cruise mode at the London Olympics and justified her lack of focus and slack attitude by claiming she was having lots of fun. What a cop out.  

I know some will consider my slagging off of an Australian sporting 'icon'** to be cruel and unnecessary. But for the serious athlete who's hungry for a medal, fun doesn't enter the equation. It's all about pulling your weight and pushing yourself to the extreme edge to achieve a personal best.

I heard a former rugby league player on the radio the other day (I'm always in the bloody car driving to and from work). He said something that stuck - to achieve greatness requires absolute dedication and relentless drive and "aggression". 

Leisel Jones couldn't cut the mustard.

To finish, I've thrown in a quote from a member of the English men's coxless four rowing team that shows the level of commitment needed to achieve an elusive gold medal:

Peter Reed, Alex Gregory, Tom James and Andy Triggs-Hodge took the rowing team's fourth successive gold by beating the Australian team as the rain began to fall. 

"It took us four years to make that. It was our masterpiece," said an exuberant Triggs-Hodge after the race. "Four years of training every day, pulling out everything we had. I'm the happiest man in the world. I've been blessed with these guys, I've been blessed with the support of my family and my wife. I'm on cloud nine."

Maybe Leisel isn't aware that the fun part comes AFTER all the hard work. 

*the media was chastised after the public complained over the publication of photos of an unfit looking Jones at the Olympic village and reports that she was was fat and unfit. Now they're scared to say anything negative about her for fear of another backlash. Fact is, the truth hurts. Maybe the cruel jibes were ultimately justified.

**open to hot debate as icon should really only be reserved for superstars who never give up such as Michael Bloody Legend Phelps.