Forrest recalls her less fond farewell
Lisa Forrest with WA Olympian Blair Evans. Picture: Steve Ferrier / The West Australian.

Lisa Forrest's beaming smile sent Australia's Olympic athletes on their way yesterday.

It was a farewell she didn't enjoy when she headed to her Games. Some selected in the 1980 Moscow team didn't get to go at all.

And as Forrest wished all the best to the 45 WA athletes heading to London 2012, she continued a push for recognition for a band of Australians whose sporting dream was marred by the boycotts of the Games 32 years ago.

Forrest, the co-host of the WA Olympians' goodbye ceremony in the city, was 16 when she captained the Australian women's swimming team at the Moscow Games.

But unlike the united bon voyage for the green and gold tracksuits yesterday, the 1980 team was shunned by many Australians, including a Federal Government that accused attending athletes of supporting the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.

"You tell (kids) there was a time when Australia wasn't winning gold medals, we were considered traitors, the Government was giving us money to stay away from the Olympics and we had death threats and they are so surprised," said Forrest, who wrote a book, Boycott, about the Moscow campaign.

While the then Australian Olympic Federation voted 6-5 to send a team in 1980, some associations, including sailing, equestrian and hockey, on the back of support from the Fraser Government, withdrew their athletes.

Another 45 countries banned the Games altogether. The Australians marched at the opening ceremony under the Olympic flag, not the Southern Cross.

Forrest has championed the cause of those left behind and has maintained a push for them to be officially recognised.

"The really difficult thing was for the athletes that were withdrawn - the girls in the hockey team that never got to represent Australia," Forrest said.

"Sharyn Simpson thought she'd be around for the next Olympics. She played hockey for Australia for the next three years but missed selection for 1984 and she is not considered an Olympian.

"It would be lovely if in particular those athletes who never got that opportunity, who had that taken away from them, could be brought up to the stage.

"If there is (only) some way it could happen."

The returning athletes 32 years ago didn't get the appreciation thrust on modern Olympians. Forrest said her team should be appreciated for keeping intact the country's outstanding Games record.

"Ultimately when we walk out into that stadium in London the commentators are going to say we've got the proud history of being to every Games of the modern Olympiad," she said.

"There is one team that held on to that record, made that record happen, and that is us."

Forrest will again be a familiar face for Australia during an Olympics, with a key role in Foxtel's coverage of London 2012.

The former backstroker will anchor the broadcaster's night sessions, which will include many of the more popular gold medal events from swimming, athletics and cycling.

"I'm still a swimmer at heart so I'll still have an eye on the pool, especially the backstroke," said Forrest, who could be on the Foxtel screens for up to five hours each night directing Australians to their local heroes.

"Because of the general hosting role rather than just being the pool, I'm waking in the middle of the night thinking taekwondo."

The West Australian

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