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Let's stick it to the Poms: Mitcham
By Doug Conway, AAP Senior Correspondent
19:51 AEST Mon Jul 23 2012

Unconstrained by the diplomatic niceties expected of team bosses, diver Matthew Mitcham made a blunt assessment of Australia's Olympic rivalry with hosts Great Britain: "I think we always want to stick it to the Poms."

Mitcham's characteristically forthright Aussie taunt adds spice to the Games-within-the-Games battle between the motherland and its former colonials which starts in earnest in London this weekend.

The Beijing 10m platform gold medallist has also talked up the hometown pressure being felt by his British rival Tom Daley.

Australian Olympic team boss Nick Green was more reserved when talking about the host nation, but also warmed to the theme of stress on British athletes.

"The expectations on the home athletes sometimes builds up a great deal of pressure," Green said on Monday.

"If they can handle the pressure of the locals and the expectations of performing in the host country, then they should do well.

"If they don't it might be a different story."

Australia makes no bones about its aim of reclaiming a top five spot on the medals table at Britain's expense after dropping to sixth in Beijing.

Britain finished fourth in 2008 with 19 gold medals to Australia's 14, although its overall tally of 47 medals was just one more than Australia's.

"Host countries always win more gold medals than the time before," said Green.

"In Beijing Great Britain had its best Games for a long long time. Considering they won one gold medal in 1996, they have come a long way.

"Our rivalry is historic. It will continue at the Olympic Games and it will continue post Olympic Games."

Australia's team experienced a day of mixed fortunes in the lead-up to the London Games.

Men's hockey favourites the Kookaburras outclassed the rising young Belgians 3-0 but the men's basketballers endured their third straight loss, going down 87-71 to lesser-ranked Brazil.

Pole vaulter Steve Hooker and triathletes Erin Densham and Emma Moffat lifted team spirits with stirring performances but there was heartbreak for horseman Shane Rose and a sharp reality check for the Hockeyroos.

Hooker has experienced a nightmare build-up to the defence of his Olympic title but pulled off a morale-boosting leap of 5.72m to take third place at a meet in Poland.

It was well short of the height he cleared for victory in 2008 but would have been good enough for bronze in Beijing.

"Steve is a competitor and I think everyone will be inspired by the fact that he is starting to build his confidence."

In Germany, Australia's top two women triathletes made it a green and gold quinella in their last hit-out before the Games.

Erin Densham chased down her teammate Moffat over the last five kilometres to win by 12 seconds, lifting hopes that the Aussies will secure a second consecutive Olympic gold in London following Emma Snowsill's triumph in Beijing.

The news was nothing but bleak, however, for eventing competitor Shane Rose, who lost his spot in the Australian team after his horse Taurus showed signs of a shoulder injury.

A devastated Rose, part of the silver-medal-winning eventing team in Beijing, was close to tears as he decided to head home to Sydney before the Games even begin.

He will be replaced by reserve rider Megan Jones, also a 2008 silver medallist.

The Hockeyroos, in the second of three Games warm-up matches, were handed a 4-0 drubbing by the top-ranked Netherlands.

Basketball's Opals, chasing a gold medal in London after three consecutive silvers, had their perfect run to the Olympics spoiled by a 64-58 loss to France in their final warm-up match.

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