Australian Olympics boss John Coates is hanging onto the hope of a top-five overall finish at next year's London Games, but admits seventh or eighth is a much more likely reality.
It sets Australia up for what could be its worst Summer Games showing in two decades and marks a dramatic slide in expectations for London.
Coates, the president of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), said on Wednesday he thought Australia would win 35 or 36 medals in London based on the latest benchmark results - very often an accurate gauge of Olympic performance.
On an overall medal tally, it would be the lowest haul since Barcelona in 1992 when Australia finished with 27 medals, including seven golds.
"We're still going (to London) to finish top five - that hasn't changed," Coates said.
"But the benchmark looks around six, seven or eight - more likely seven or eight."
Coates said swimming - which usually delivered the bulk of Australia's medals - was a major culprit, having secured just 11 medals at this year's world championships in Shanghai, down from an average 16 at every Games since 1996.
But most concerning for Coates was that the benchmark results, which track Australia's performance on the international stage, show success is falling across the board.
"In Sydney, we medalled in 19 disciplines and we're down to this year, I think will be 10," he said.
"Last year, it was 12.
"It's a very worrying trend and it's pretty bloody obvious."
Without action, he predicted further decline at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Coates said it all came down to money.
Australia has thrown about $700 million over four years to elite sport, but that's significantly less than the $US1.2 billion ($A1.15 billion) each dedicated by Britain, Germany and France.
Australian shooting, for example, was being left behind by countries that could afford to pay its athletes to shoot full time.
In an appeal to the Australian Sports Commission, newly headed by Olympian hurdler Simon Hollingsworth, Coates urged it to fight for more funds from the federal government on behalf of the AOC and athletes.
"My message is it won't be enough taking us forward to Rio."
He said too many sports had fallen off the radar because of a lack of funding, such as archery, gymnastics and boxing which are all no longer included in the Australian Institute of Sport program.
Although the global credit crunch continued to put pressure on the federal budget, Coates insisted spending on sport was a smart investment, arguing it delivered back in terms of boosts in sport participation.
"It's an opportunity for us as a nation to show that we're competing in the big time," he said.
"It's an area where Australians should aspire to excellence."
As recently as February, Coates was optimistic about cracking the top five on the 2012 medals table.
But the 2011 benchmark results have him thinking otherwise, with a prediction Australia will win 30 medals in London, including 11 gold.
That is however without factoring in likely prospects in men's hockey, women's basketball and sailing, which holds its world championships in Perth next month.